Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

WHO incident manager Abdi Mahamud says studies suggest that the Omicron variant infects the upper part of the body, rather than the lungs.

An official from the World Health Organization (WHO) said evidence was growing that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was affecting the upper respiratory tract, resulting in milder symptoms than previous strains.

“We are seeing more and more studies showing that Omicron infects the upper part of the body. “Unlike the others, it can cause serious pneumonia,” WHO incident manager Abdi Mahamud told a news conference in Geneva.

While welcoming the potentially “good news”, Mahamud emphasized that Omicron’s high portability meant that it would become prevalent in many places within weeks – thus posing a threat in countries where a large part of the population remains unvaccinated.

His remarks on the reduced risks of serious diseases resonate with other data, including a recent study from South Africa. However, Mahamud also sounded cautious, calling the country an “outlier”, as it has, among other things, a young population.

Asked if an Omicron-specific vaccine is needed, Mahamud said it was too early to say, but noted that the decision required global coordination and should not be left to the commercial sector to decide alone.

A recent study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, showed that compared to both Delta and the original coronavirus, the Omicron variant was faster in the upper airways and lungs, but much slower to infiltrate the lung tissue itself.

A combined U.S. and Japanese study – still under peer review – found that rodents infected with Omicron had less lung damage, lost less weight and were less likely to die than those infected with Delta.

Meanwhile, a team that studied the Omicron variant in Glasgow believes that this variant can not infect the lung cells as much, because an essential protein that usually helped previous SARS-COV-2 variants to gain access to the lung cells, less strongly bound to Omicron.

Commenting on the findings, NHS doctor Amir Khan wrote Monday that because there are suspected serious diseases of COVID-19 as soon as the virus enters the lungs, “there is much less chance of serious disease” than there is “in the upper airways, mouth, nose, etc.” prevent. .

However, he added: “It is widely accepted that even if the variant is milder, the large number of people infected with it could lead to more hospitalizations in general, with healthcare workers having to isolate due to positive testing.”

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