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Scientists say it will take weeks to find out how dangerous Omicrons really are. Here’s why.


By the time the World Health Organization named the new strain Omicron, several research groups had duplicated the work of laboratories in Durban and elsewhere, and mapped out the genetic changes that made Omicron the their new bad agent coronavirus.

While many of these mutations are familiar to other variants, scientists are still unsure if they make Omicron significantly different from earlier variants – especially the Delta variant. super dominant.

It will take weeks of testing to find out which superpowers are added, if any, to these mutations that produce Omicron.

The researchers will see what’s happening in the real world by testing samples taken from patients, sequencing their genomes to see if Omicrons are causing infections, and seeing if the day as many samples as Omicron or not.

They will also monitor whether Omicron infections lead to more severe disease and if fully vaccinated people are more likely to be infected with Omicron variants than other strains.

That kind of real-life testing can take months.

“AstraZeneca is also conducting studies in sites where the variant has been identified, namely in Botswana and Eswatini, which will allow us to collect actual data on Vaxzevria against the viral variant. new,” a spokesman for the vaccine maker said on Friday.

Vaccine manufacturers are turning to what has become a common technique throughout the pandemic – taking blood from vaccinated volunteers and people who have recovered from recent infections and mixing it with samples of the new variant – or a lab-designed version called a pseudovirus – to see how immune cells and proteins work to fight it.

Serum contains antibodies and B cells and T cells that do the hard work of the body’s immune system.

All vaccinated adults should get a Covid-19 booster vaccine because of the Omicron variant, CDC says

Pfizer and its partners BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have all said they are starting these trials.

“The company is testing serum from participants in completed and ongoing enhancement studies looking for neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement today. Monday.

This approach was used first to show that vaccines could work to protect people against infection, then to show that they work to protect people against Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variations, and finally, provide the first evidence of reduced immunity.

Such laboratory plate techniques, combined with factual evidence, form the basis for decision-making regarding vaccine authorization, approval and administration.

And they will be used to inform the world about the risks of Omicron.

“There are two ways we’re going to figure this out,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN Monday.

Omicron vs Delta: More mutations don't necessarily make the tiny Covid-19 virus

“One is by laboratory experiments. To do that, you really need to have a strain of Omicron growing in the lab and then you mix it with the serum of people who have been vaccinated and asked if that vaccinated serum still inactivated the virus. It just takes a while for the virus to grow. There’s not much we can do to speed that up.”

The World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove told CNN it will take some time to “increase the stockpile” of the virus to do so. “Our estimate is two to four weeks,” she said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outlined two approaches Tuesday.

“One of the things you do is you get the virus and you grow it, or you put it into a mutated form called a pseudovirus. And when you do that, you can get convalescent plasma, monoclonal antibodies, as well as serum and antibodies produced by the vaccine to see if they neutralize the virus,” he said during a virus briefing at the White House. Convalescent plasma comes from people who have been infected and are recovering.

“That should give you a pretty good idea of ​​how much immune evasion is. That will probably take two weeks or more, maybe even sooner, depending on how well developed. of the virus in the isolates we received,” said Fauci.

“And in countries with a lot of cases like South Africa, computer biologists and evolutionary biologists will feel the competition of this virus with Delta. Those are just some of the things that will be going on. take weeks to weeks to learn.”

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock said in a statement on Tuesday that the agency is working with health product companies that carry out the trials. , therapeutics and vaccines – to address any potential effects of the new variant.

“Historically, the work of gathering genetic information and patient samples for the variants and then performing the necessary testing to assess their impact was time-consuming. However, we hope. Much of this work will be completed in the coming weeks,” Woodcock said.

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