The first peer-reviewed study on the new COVID-19 omicron is now available. According to virologists, those who have already been vaccinated and have had the coronavirus before will have higher protection against the new strain. Writes about this Emerging Microbes & Infection.

Experts at the same time concluded that the omicron strain is “superior” to all other variants of the coronavirus in its ability to evade protection received from a previous infection or vaccination. The studies were carried out in laboratory conditions on samples from a test tube in vitro.

The study’s lead author, Yuchun Wang, a senior fellow at the National Institute of Food and Drug Administration in China, says their findings support recent discoveries in South Africa that the omicron can “easily evade immunity.”

“We found that a large number of mutations in the omicron strain did indeed cause significant changes in neutralization sensitivity in people who were already ill with COVID,” Wang says. “However, the average ED50 (protection level) of the omicron is still higher than the baseline. This indicates that some protective effect may still be observed. ”

Wang, former chairman of the medical virology department and vice chairman of the medical microbiology and immunology department of the Chinese Medical Association, still urges not to rely entirely on vaccinations or previous illness. He says that after an infection or vaccination, antibody protection gradually diminishes over the course of six months. The omicron can then bypass the immune system even better.

In the study, an expert team of 11 scientists examined 28 serum samples from patients recovering from the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. They tested them on in vitro omicron samples, as well as four other strains marked as “of concern” by the World Health Organization (eg delta) and two variants marked as “of interest”.

“This study confirms the increased immune escape of the omicron strain, which is a wake-up call for the world,” Wang summarizes.

The main disadvantage of this study is that it was conducted in vitro and used pseudotyped (artificially created) viruses.