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“Encouraging signs about symptoms and disease”

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“There are encouraging signs about the symptoms of the Omicron variant and on the severity of the disease. But you have to be careful. “Professor Anthony Fauci, immunologist and advisor to the President of the United States Joe Biden, thus photographs the picture relating to the Omicron variant. Infections are increasing, particularly in South Africa, while researchers from numerous countries are working to answer as precisely as possible a series of questions: is the Omicron variant more contagious? Are the symptoms milder? Are vaccines effective? “The variant is becoming the dominant variant in South Africa. It is here in the US in at least 15 states and it is in at least 40 countries. What will happen when the Omicron variant competes with the Delta variant?” Asks the immunologist, delineating one. still fluid scenario in connection with CNN.

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“The vaccines we are using are targeting the parent strain of the virus. We are getting good protection against the Delta variant, particularly with the dose booster. With the booster, there will probably be a considerable level of protection against the Omicron variant as well“, he adds.

Spotlight on South Africa, which discovered the variant and is now seen as a point of reference in analyzing the situation. The Omicron variant is linked to a spike in reinfections in the country, the risk of reinfection in subjects already cured could be double compared to the previous variants, as hypothesized by a study not yet subjected to peer review.

Scientists, highlights the BBC, have analyzed about 36,000 ‘suspicious’ samples to verify data relating to second infections. The data did not show peaks during the waves dominated in the country by the Beta or Delta variants which also, according to results obtained in the laboratory, would have had the partial ability to overcome the vaccine barrier. Now there is a surge in reinfections: not all patients have been subjected to analyzes aimed at identifying the variant, but the timing suggests that Omicron is involved in the phenomenon. Professor Juliet Pulliam, of Stellenbosch University, is one of the signatories of the study. The scientist refers to “a greater ability to infect previously infected individuals”.

Professor Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute, also contributes to enrich the picture. “We know 3 things we didn’t know last week,” he tells the BBC. “The first thing is that the virus is spreading with extraordinary speed in South Africa, the increase in cases is much faster than in the previous 3 waves. It appears that Omicron is able to spread very easily and virtually all of the cases we see now in South Africa are Omicron cases.“, explains.

“The second thing is about the data we have on reinfections. After you have covid, you have about a 1% or less chance of getting infected again and getting sick from this virus again,” he says. “The third piece of data we have refers to clinical cases and the severity of the disease. The data suggests that the disease may occur more frequently among young people and particularly among unvaccinated ones. So far, symptoms have appeared milder. But I want to emphasize that we have to be cautious: these are the very first days, “he notes. “A large proportion of those hospitalized are not vaccinated. Vaccines may be less effective but the important point is that we believe they protect against serious illness and death. We should have laboratory data on the effectiveness of vaccines within a week.

Professor Wolfgang Preiser, also from Stellenbosch University, comments on the origin of the variant, identified in mid-November. “According to current knowledge, an early form of the Omicron variant evolved as a separate form of the virus before the Alpha and Delta variants emerged,” he tells Dpa.

The scientist is part of the team of researchers who discovered Omicron. The hypothesis is that the variant evolved over months without attracting particular attention. The analyzes and sequencing made it possible to ascertain that Omicron, identified in South Africa and Botswana, has a large number of mutations, including those located in the Spike protein, the attachment point that the virus uses on human cells.

. The researcher, as the Dpa points out, takes into consideration a series of hypotheses related to the origin of Omicron. The variant may have developed in a patient with HIV or another form of immunodeficiency. In a person with these characteristics, the coronavirus could replicate over months and change without being completely eliminated by the immune system. “It’s a hypothesis and it’s not proven,” says Preiser.

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