Covid study suggests catching Omicron strain may protect against Delta

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Catching Omicron strain may protect against Delta and usher in endemic phase of Covid, study suggests

Academics took blood samples from people struck down with the ultra-infectious variant and measured their antibody levels. They then looked at how well the virus-fighting proteins reacted to both Omicron and Delta.

Lab tests, conducted two weeks after patients joined the study, showed antibody levels spiked 14-fold in response to Omicron.

But there was also a 4.4-fold increase against Delta, according to the findings which took the researchers by surprise.

The above graph shows the change in antibody levels against the two variants following an infection. Scientists calculated this by measuring antibody levels in the first four days after symptoms appeared in 15 patients, and ten days later

Other studies delving into the topic of cross-variant immunity showed antibodies made in response to Delta reacted poorly to Omicron.

Professor Alex Sigal, a virologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa who led the research, said it suggested Omicron could usher in the endemic phase of the pandemic.

The above chart shows estimates for Covid variant cases according to Britain's largest surveillance centre the Sanger Institute. It shows Delta cases dropped by almost a quarter over the two weeks to December 18, the latest available

He said: ‘The increase in neutralising immunity against Omicron was expected, that is the virus these individuals were infected with.

‘However, we also saw that the same people — especially those who were vaccinated — developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.’

Professor Sigal added: ‘If, as it currently looks like from the South African experience, Omicron is less pathogenic, then this will help push Delta out.’

He said this was because it should ‘decrease the likelihood someone infected with Omicron will get re-infected with Delta’.

‘If that is true, then the disruption Covid has caused in our lives may become less,’ Professor Sigal continued.

An ever-growing body of evidence shows Omicron is milder than its rivals, and less likely to put people who catch it in hospital.

The variant is already dominant in Britain, and has caused cases to hit record levels.

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