Omicron shows less severe illness in animals than other COVID-19 variants, study shows

The Mississippi State Department of Health said Thursday that 4,885 Mississippians had been...
The Mississippi State Department of Health said Thursday that 4,885 Mississippians had been added to the COVID-19 rolls(generic)
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:35 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Omicron causes less severe disease in mice and hamsters than other variant strains, according to a study at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which experts say is a reliable model to understand COVID-19.

Researchers explained animal studies are important to understand new virus variants and how they respond to existing ways to counteract them, such as vaccines and therapies.

The SARS-CoV-2 Assessment of Viral Evolution (SAVE) program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was the result of a collaborative effort by several researchers led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, and meets four times weekly.

The team analyzes sequences from viruses all around the world and looks for new variants. They also look for new variants in animals and determine how previous infection or vaccination provides protection against variants.

Researchers state that despite the high number of mutations the omicron variant contains, 30, compared to other variants, mice and hamsters exposed to omicron experienced less severe disease than earlier versions of the virus.

This part of the virus comes in contact with human cells and is a target for the immune system. It also is what antibody treatments and vaccines attach to in order to treat someone for COVID-19.

Scientists were previously worried about these mutations because current vaccines and treatments are based on earlier versions of the virus, which had less mutations, and would be easier to attach to the cells.

The study does not cover the effect of omicron on organs other than the lungs, or how omicron responds to vaccine immunity or treatments.

The research findings were previously available as a preprint and published after a peer review Friday in the journal Nature.

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