Home / Science / Health /  Omicron able to evade immunity from jabs, previous infection: study

NEW DELHI : New research suggests that people previously infected with covid-19 and those who are vaccinated will have some degree of immunity against Omicron— a “stronger than basic" defence.

Published in Emerging Microbes & Infection, the findings of the study by the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control, China, also suggest that although a booster can “significantly boost immunity", protection from Omicron itself “may be compromised" but that more research is needed to better understand this.

“However, the test tube (or ‘in-vitro’, scientifically) samples of Omicron examined in this new research do show it “exceeds" all other variants in its potential capability to evade the protection gained from previous infection or vaccination," the study said.

The researcher said the results support recent findings in South Africa which highlight Omicron easily evades immunity. “We found the large number of mutations of the Omicron variant did cause significant changes of neutralization sensitivity against people who had already had covid-19," said lead author Youchun Wang, Senior Research Fellow.

“However, the average protection level against Omicron is still higher than the baseline, which indicated there is still some protection effect can be observed," Youchun said.

Youchun cautioned that because the antibody protection – in the form of previous infection or vaccination – decreases gradually over a period of six months, Omicron “may be able to escape immunity even better".

The team of scientists predicted that while “a third-dose enhancement strategy can significantly boost immunity", the “protection from Omicron may be compromised". The expert team of 11 scientists looked at 28 serum samples from patients recovering from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. They tested these against in-vitro Omicron samples, as well as four other strains marked ‘of concern’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) such as Delta, and two variants marked ‘of interest’.

“This study verifies the enhanced immune escape of Omicron variant, which sounds the alarm to the world and has important implications for the public health planning and the development of matching strategies," Youchun said.

The team states that more research, carried out not just in-vitro but in real-world studies, is urgently needed to better understand Omicron. And, specifically, on whether it can “escape from the vaccine- elicited immunity to cause more severe disease and death". “It needs to be re-evaluated whether the antibodies can still be effective against the Omicron variant," the authors said.

“The exact impact to human protection may be influenced by more factors such as the infectivity of Omicron relative to other variants to human populations and the viral fitness of Omicron once the humans are infected," said the study adding, that more population studies including the level of immune protection and symptoms among people infected with Omicron are needed to fully establish the global impact of Omicron.

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