Nijhuis points out that in the case of the oomicron, greater infection and lower capacity of pathogens are associated: “We see that the omicron can spread well because it can infect the cells of the upper respiratory tract well. At the same time, this property ensures that other cells in the body, such as cells of the The lungs are less susceptible to infection, which is why patients become less sick.”
Experts say the new alternative will have to do its best to displace Omicron. This can be done in different ways. For example by being more contagious. This is expressed in the basic reproduction number R: the number of people infected if no measures and no immunity had been in place yet. It is estimated that the base reproduction number using omikron is higher than the previous variants.
The cycle is also important: how quickly an infected person infects another person. In Omicron it was about two or three days, in Delta it was about four days. Weltkamp: “I have a feeling he could hardly be more efficient.”
Bypassing the immune system
The new variant does not necessarily have to be more contagious, because people can become infected again, or become infected after vaccination. Lequime: “As a result, the hosts remain available to the virus. So I don’t see a specific pressure for the virus to become more contagious. But it cannot be ruled out that it will become more contagious, because there are no evolutionary obstacles to that either.”
The opportunities for the new variant may lie in circumventing immune protection. If a variant has many mutations, it is less likely to be recognized by our immune system, which built immunity through previous infection or vaccination. Nijhuis: “The result of this is the same as more infection: the virus can spread more easily.”
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