Omicron May Be Blessing as Studies Show “Enhanced Immunity” with 4.4-fold Increase in Neutralising Delta

Omicron sign. Omicron letter, Greek alphabet Symbol, rugged, silver background
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Omicron Variant Might Help Defend Against Delta, Lab Study Suggests

In the lab, antibodies produced during an Omicron infection protected against Delta. If Omicron dominates in the real world, that could lead to a less dire future.

By Carl Zimmer

People who have recovered from an infection with the new Omicron coronavirus variant may be able to fend off later infections from the Delta variant, according to a new laboratory study carried out by South African scientists.

If further experiments confirm these findings, they could suggest a less dire future for the pandemic. In the short term, Omicron is expected to create a surge of cases that will put a massive strain on economies and health care systems around the world. But in the longer term, the new research suggests that an Omicron-dominated world might experience fewer hospitalizations and deaths than one in which Delta continues to rage.

Image: Enhancement of Delta neutralization by Omicron infection. (A) Omicron (A) or Delta (B) virus neutralisation by blood plasma from n=13 participants infected in the Omicron infection wave at enrollment (median 4 days post-symptom onset) and at follow-up (median 14 days post-enrollment).

“Omicron is likely to push Delta out,” said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, who led the new study. “Maybe pushing Delta out is actually a good thing, and we’re looking at something we can live with more easily and that will disrupt us less than the previous variants.”

He posted the new study on the institute’s website on Monday. It has not yet been published in a scientific journal.

Read full in NYTimes

Excerpt from South Africa study site:

As expected, the results show a developing antibody response to Omicron, with neutralisation increasing 14-fold over this time. However, the team also observed that the participants developed some enhanced immunity against the Delta variant, with Delta neutralisation increasing 4.4-fold. The researchers also show that vaccinated participants were able to mount a better neutralising response against Delta, while the response in unvaccinated participants was more variable.