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  • Health The WHO qualifies the omicron variant as 'worrying': is it as fierce as it is painted?

  • Health The first image of the omicron variant of the coronavirus

Does Ómicron escape vaccines?

It will take a few weeks to answer this question, but the companies that produce the

mRNA vaccines

are already

working on a preparation

specifically directed against the

omicron variant

, which could be ready,

according to Pfizer, in "a hundred days

.

"

However, experts

consider the possibility that the strain "escapes" the protection offered by

current

vaccines is remote

. "It is more likely that the virus partially escapes the immune defense, as has already happened with the Delta variant infection in which the effectiveness of the vaccines has decreased compared to previous variants, but the defense against serious diseases has been maintained. high ", explains

Sergio Abrignani

, Professor of Immunology at the Milan State University and director of the National Institute of Molecular Genetics "

Romeo and Enrica Invernizzi

".

"In the case of omicron,

a further decrease in protection against infection is possible

, but it is still a good defense against serious disease."

Are your mutations worrisome?

It is not certain that all mutations are "negative" or that they make the virus more transmissible or pathogenic.

Ómicron has some characteristics common to the Beta and Gamma variants

(those considered more "dangerous"), but to understand the ability of current vaccines to protect against infection and disease,

more data is needed on the protective effect of antibodies and lymphocytes. T

.

"Neutralizing antibodies inhibit infection by preventing the virus from entering cells, while T lymphocytes are also necessary to protect against the disease, which kills already infected cells - clarifies Abrignani-: neutralizing antibodies mainly recognize the same region "mutated spike that binds to human cells, T lymphocytes instead affect regions of the virus that have no interaction function with human cells and that have remained well conserved compared to previous variants."

Does the third dose protect against omicron?

Yes, because it strengthens the immune response that, as mentioned,

also attacks areas of the virus that have not changed from the original Wuhan strain

.

For the fourth dose, a possible omicron-specific vaccine could be used, such as those announced by

Pfizer

and

Moderna

.

Will omicron symptoms be more severe?

Early data from South Africa indicate that, at least in those vaccinated, mild illness occurs. However, it must be considered that the country's population is young, with an average life expectancy of only 58 years.

In the next few days we will see what happens when omicron spreads to areas where there are many elderly and frail people

. "The questions that we will have to answer are three - says Sergio Abrignani -: is it more widespread than the dominant variant (Delta), as it would seem at first glance? Does it induce a more serious disease? Are those vaccinated with the Wuhan strain still protected, at least in part, from serious illness, mild to moderate symptoms and infections?

Giorgio Palù

, president of the Italian pharmacology agency, has pointed out that "there are no scientific reasons for an alarm."

We suspect that omicron is very contagious - he added - but a virus with all these mutations could also be less virulent

".

Will new confinements be necessary?

The

weapon against the coronavirus that we currently have is the vaccine.

It is important that all citizens continue, complete or begin the vaccination cycle.

Has Ómicron developed in an immunosuppressed person?

According to the hypothesis of geneticist François Balloux of University College London, omicron has developed in an immunosuppressed person, perhaps due to untreated HIV / AIDS. This is likely given that the prevalence of HIV / AIDS is very high in South Africa. "

It is not surprising that a new variant has appeared for the first time in the body of an individual with few immune defenses

, given that in that situation

Sars-CoV-2

can replicate for several months (thus having many opportunities to accumulate mutations) before being eliminated - points out Abrignani -. On the contrary,

vaccines generally do not promote mutations

, as has been wrongly heard in recent months.

The presence of the strong immune response of the vaccine resolves the infection in a few weeks, reducing the number of replications of the virus. "

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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