The Omicron subvariant may or may produce more severe symptoms than the original strand (BA.1)
The Omicron subvariant, (BA.2), is more dangerous than BA.1, according to a study out of Japan, the findings of which were published in bioRxiv. The study has not been peer-reviewed yet.
“Our multiscale investigations suggest that the risk of BA.2 for global health is potentially higher than that of BA.1,” the researchers said.
Hamsters were administered BA.1 and BA.2 and the rodents that were infected with BA.2 got sicker than those that were injected with BA.1. Severe symptoms include a headache, muscle weakness, persistent pain, hair loss, dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of smell or lung scarring, among others.
“Infection experiments using hamsters show that BA.2 is more pathogenic than BA.1,” the study authors said.
The vaccine will not fend off both BA.1 and BA.2. However, receiving a booster makes infection risk 74% less likely, according to recent data. Monoclonal antibodies used to treat people infected with COVID didn’t have much effect on BA.2, which was the first line of treatment for the original strand.
BA.2 was “almost completely resistant to casirivimab and imdevimab and was 35 times more resistant to sotrovimab, compared to the original B.1.1 virus,” the researchers wrote.
“In summary, our data suggest the possibility that BA.2 would be the most concerned variant to global health,” the researchers wrote. “Currently, both BA.2 and BA.1 are recognized together as Omicron and these are almost undistinguishable. Based on our findings, we propose that BA.2 should be recognized as a unique variant of concern, and this SARS-CoV-2 variant should be monitored in depth.”
Some scientist also noted the lab findings don’t always reflect what’s happening outside of the lab.
“I think it’s always hard to translate differences in animal and cell culture models to what’s going on with regards to human disease,” said Jeremy Kamil, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shrevepor. “That said, the differences do look real.”
“It might be, from a human’s perspective, a worse virus than BA.1 and might be able to transmit better and cause worse disease,” added Daniel Rhoads, MD, section head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic.
Another scientist who reviewed the data noted that individual’s immune systems have adapted as the virus does, making it less likely to become infected.
“One of the caveats that we have to think about, as we get new variants that might seem more dangerous, is the fact that there’s two sides to the story,” Deborah Fuller, PhD, a virologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said. “Our immune system is evolving as well. And so that’s pushing back on things.”
The Omicron subvariant has been detected in 74 countries and 47 U.S. states. Contrary to the current findings, he World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that While BA.2 spreads faster than BA.1, there’s no evidence it makes people sicker.