This is why the disease in the Omicron variant is milder

This is why the disease in the Omicron variant is milder

Photo: hsyncoban/iStock
Photo: hsyncoban/iStock

New research by scientists from the University of Kent and Frankfurt – Goethe University shows that the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant is less effective than Delta at inhibiting a cellular defense mechanism (see interferon response) against viruses. Moreover, findings from cell culture show that eight key COVID-19 drugs and drug candidates remain effective against Omicron.

Although the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant causes milder illnesses than Delta, it better evades immune protection from vaccines and previous infections. The reason for this situation has not yet been found.

Now, new work by a team of researchers at the Universities of Kent and Frankfurt – Goethe shows that Omicron variant viruses are more likely to be constrained by a process called the interferon response. The interferon response is a general immune response found in all cells of the body. The findings explain for the first time why many COVID-19 patients infected with the Omicron variant generally do not experience serious illness.

The study, carried out on cell cultures in the laboratory, also showed that Omicron viruses continue to be sensitive to eight of the most important drugs and drug candidates in the treatment of COVID-19. These drugs include EIDD-1931 (the active metabolite of molnupiravirin), ribavirin, remdesivir, favipravir, PF-07321332 (the active ingredient of paxlovid, nirmatrelvir), nafamostat, camostat and aprotinin.

Working at the Faculty of Biological Sciences at Kent University, Prof. Martin Michaelis explains, “Our study provides for the first time an explanation for why Omicron infections do not generally cause serious illness. This is because Omicron, unlike Delta, does not effectively inhibit the host cell’s interferon immune response.”

The Omicron variant is 105% more contagious than the Delta variant.

Working at the Institute of Medical Virusology at Goethe University, Prof. Adds Jindrich Cinatl, “While experiments in cell culture may not fully reflect a patient’s more complex condition, our data provide promising findings that current antiviral COVID-19 drugs are also effective against Omicron.”

The study was published four days ago in the journal Cell Research.

Source: Frankfurt – Goethe University. &

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