Omicron: GP explains ‘overwhelming’ science behind vaccines
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Normally as viruses mutate, they evolve to become more transmissible and less infectious.
In the two years since COVID-19 arrived in the UK, this has very much been the case.
However, new analysis of BA.4 and BA.5 has found the virus may have evolved to re-favour infecting lung tissue.
As a result, these subvariants could be a greater threat to the population than previous forms of the virus.
At the moment, the most dominant subvariant of Omicron in the UK is BA.2; however, BA.5 is starting to make up more ground and account for a greater number of cases.
The prediction is BA.4 and BA.5 will likely cause a new wave of COVID-19 as they have done in South Africa, the country Omicron originated from.
Meanwhile, data from the University of Tokyo suggests BA.4 and BA.5 are behaving more like earlier and deadlier variants of COVID-19, namely Alpha and Delta.
The Alpha variant was the first form of COVID-19 to sweep around the world in late-2019.
Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, said: “It looks as though these [variants] are switching back to the more dangerous form of infection, so going lower down into the lung.”
While the new research is of concern, this does not mean the UK is in the same position it was in early-2020.
As a whole, the population has a large degree of immunity with relatively high vaccination rates and two years of exposure to the virus.
What this means is a return to restrictions is not guaranteed and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 could be a footnote in the history of coronavirus.
Nevertheless, vigilance is key, and it is hoped the government will take all measures necessary to combat BA.4 and BA.5 should they become problematic.
In the meantime, new research into Omicron has revealed startling information about the immune response it causes.
Research from Imperial College London has found infection with the Omicron variant does little to boost a person’s immunity.
Professor Rosemary Boyton of Imperial College said: “Getting infected with Omicron does not provide a potent boost to immunity against re-infection with Omicron in the future.”
Co-investigator on the study professor Danny Altmann added: “We have found Omicron is far from a benign natural booster of vaccine immunity, as we might have thought, but it is an especially stealthy immune evader.”
What this data means is the body has a hard time remembering the Omicron variant and how to respond to it.
While coronavirus is less of an immediate threat for many, it is recommended the public remain aware of the symptoms. These include:
• A high temperature or shivering
• A new, continuous cough
• Loss or change to the sense of smell or taste
• Shortness of breath
• Feeling tired or exhausted
• Aching body
• Sore throat
• Blocked or runny nose
• Loss of appetite
• Being sick.
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