If, as a new study from the University of Hong Kong suggests, the Omicron variant spreads 70 times faster than the Delta variant, then we’re all going to get it. It’s just a matter of when. The good news is that the study also finds that Omicron doesn’t spread as quickly in human lungs, which means it inflicts less damage:
Dr Chan and his team successfully isolated the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and used this experimental model to compare infection with the original SARS-CoV-2 from 2020, the Delta variant and the recent Omicron variant. They found that the novel Omicron variant replicates faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and Delta variant in the human bronchus. At 24 hours after infection, the Omicron variant replicated around 70 times higher than the Delta variant and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. In contrast, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently (more than 10 times lower) in the human lung tissue than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, which may suggest lower severity of disease.
The bronchus are the two large tubes that carry air from your windpipe to your lungs and back. Rapid reproduction in the bronchus probably results in an infected person exhaling more of the virus with every breath, making the virus spread faster and more widely. Thankfully, the variant’s inability to replicate quickly inside the lungs gives the infected person’s body better odds of overcoming the infection.
If this new variant really does spread 70 times faster than Delta, which was considered twice as contagious as previous strains of SARS-CoV-2 . . . it is going to be extremely difficult for people to avoid being exposed to the Omicron variant. Thankfully, because Omicron isn’t as difficult to fight off in the lungs, the rapid spread won’t be leading to mass deaths, and it should “burn through” populations quickly. That said, if you’re eligible for a booster and haven’t gotten one yet . . . you’re probably going to want to get one as soon as possible. If this variant is going to be everywhere soon, you’re going to want your body to be prepared.
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