Researchers from the Universities of Frankfurt and Kent believe they have found an explanation as to why the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 causes less severe disease progression.

The scientists around Jindrich Cinatl and Martin Michaelis have shown in a study that omicron viruses are particularly sensitive to a non-specific, cellular defense mechanism - the so-called interferon response.

Sasha Zoske

Sheet maker in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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Apparently, unlike delta-type coronaviruses, omicron cannot prevent affected cells from producing and releasing interferon, said Michaelis.

Interferons are messenger substances of the immune system which, among other things, play an important role in the innate immune response to viral infections.

Well-known active ingredients also help against the new mutant

In cell culture experiments, the researchers also found that eight of the most important active ingredients against Covid-19 also effectively inhibit the proliferation of the omicron variant.

The substances tested were EIDD-1931 (a metabolite produced from the drug molnupiravir), ribavirin, remdesivir, favipravir, PF-07321332 (nirmatrelvir, a component of the drug Paxlovid) and the protease inhibitors nafamostat, camostat and aprotinin.

All of these substances are similarly effective against Omicron as against Delta, the scientists write.

Cinatl emphasizes that the results of the cell culture experiments cannot simply be extrapolated to humans.

Nevertheless, they give hope that the efforts to develop Covid drugs have not been in vain.

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