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Two new subtypes of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus can escape the antibodies of a previous infection with the new strain well enough to cause a new wave, but are much less likely to grow in vaccinated individuals, South African scientists have found in their research. Reuters.
Scientists from many institutions looked at the Omicron strain variants Ba.4 and BA.5, which the World Health Organization added to its watchlist last month.
They took blood samples from 39 participants who had previously been infected with the Omicron strain when it first appeared late last year.
Fifteen had been vaccinated – eight with the Pfizer vaccine and seven with the J&J vaccine – while the remaining 24 had not been vaccinated.
“The vaccinated group showed about 5 times greater neutralization capacity and better protection,” said the study, a pre-release of which was released over the weekend.
In unvaccinated samples, there was an almost eight-fold reduction in antibody production when exposed to BA.4 and BA.5, compared to the original BA.1 Omicron series.
South Africa may enter a fifth wave of COVID earlier than expected, officials and scientists said on Friday, blaming a steady rise in infections apparently due to sub-variants of BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron.
Only about 30% of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.
“Subtypes BA.4 and BA.5 have the potential to lead to a new wave of infections,” the study said.