Monday, January 17, 2022

The case for updating covid-19 vaccines for the Omicron version

vdifferent orientations, but how much? Since then SARS,Cv-2 was first sequenced in early 2020 with dozens of variants identified. Five have been designated “types of anxiety” by the World Health Organization (WHO).WHOThe latest is Omicron, which was given its name in November last year and is set to become the dominant form of the virus almost everywhere.

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One question on the minds of both scientists and politicians is whether COVID vaccines will work even better if they are updated to deal with the new variants. Until and including Delta, first identified in India, and designated a variant of the concern in May 2021, the answer is “no”. But new research, which has mapped the differences between the all-important versions of SARS,Cv-2 suggests that, although the administration of existing vaccines is still useful, Omicron is so different from the others that the answer may now be “yes”.

Researchers in the Netherlands, in coordination with Rogier Sanders and Colin Russell of the University of Amsterdam and Dirk Egink of the Dutch Public Health Institute, collected blood samples from 51 unvaccinated people after they had been infected with different versions of the virus. SARS,Cv-2. These included the original, ancestral, breed and alpha, beta, gamma and delta versions. (Omicron samples were not available.) They then assessed the antibody response (“neutralization potential”) of those samples against different antigens—in other words, different versions of the virus, again the parental strain, alpha, beta, gamma. and using delta. And, this time, Omicron.

By measuring the neutralizing potential of each participant’s serum against different variants and applying what is known as a multidimensional scaling algorithm, Dr. Sanders, Dr. Russell, Dr. Agink and their colleagues were able to put both the virus and the serum sample on a single scale. “Antigenic Map” (see chart). It is used to study how mutations in a process called antigenic drift make the virus more or less different from the parental strain. In such maps, a unit of distance equals a two-fold change in neutralization titre (a measure of the concentration of antibodies in the blood needed to neutralize a virus). Samples plotted closer together are more similar. According to a measure traditionally used to group influenza viruses—a distance of three or fewer antigenic units—the researchers found that Omicron would be counted as the first of the new group. SARS,Cv-2. Whereas all the widely circulating versions before it, being less than three units apart from each other, cluster as a group, Omicron is more than five units apart from all others.

A paper describing this research. was uploaded to medrxiv, a research portal, out January 3, but has not yet been peer-reviewed. The authors also caution that their methods differ slightly from those traditionally used to map influenza. Yet they conclude that there is a “change in neutralization between Omicron and other variants”. SARS,Cv-2, including the ancestral strain, is striking”. (A separate investigation, published the same day room, reaches a similar conclusion.) Dr. Russell cautions that the study’s findings should not be interpreted as implying that current vaccinations designed for the parental strain are ineffective. “Substantial reduction in cross-reactivity with previous variants of Omicron does not necessarily mean there is no reactivity. This is probably why promoting current vaccines offer some protection,” he says.

The more people who catch or get vaccinated on Omicron, the more likely the population will receive some protection than before. Other studies have also shown that the response of another part of the immune system, its Tea-Cells seem to be less affected by the mutation of the omicron. This is probably one reason why Omicron rarely causes serious illness and death in people who have acquired immunity through infection or vaccination. The second is that Omicron himself appears to be inherently less lethal. But just like twice a year WHO Conducts expert reviews of influenza viruses and issues recommendations for changes in vaccine composition, Dr Russell has proposed something similar for COVID vaccines. They suggest that for maximum efficacy, vaccines should be updated as soon as possible. I

To enjoy more of our mind-expanding science coverage, sign up for our weekly newsletter, Simply Science. All our stories related to the pandemic can be found on our Coronavirus Hub. You can also find trackers showing the global roll-out of vaccines, more deaths by country, and the spread of the virus across Europe.

This article is “The Beginning of Something New?” Appeared in the Science and Technology section of the print edition under the title.

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