South African scientists have discovered that the Omicron variant could potentially displace the Delta variant of the coronavirus as research shows that infection with the Omicron variant boosts immunity to the Delta variant.
Although, the study only covered a small group of people and is yet to be peer-reviewed, it found that people who were infected with Omicron, especially those who were vaccinated, developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.
The study included 33 vaccinated and unvaccinated people who were infected with the Omicron variant in South Africa.
According to scientists who conducted the research, “The increase in Delta variant neutralization in individuals infected with Omicron may result in decreased ability of Delta to re-infect those individuals”.
“Results of the study are consistent with Omicron displacing the Delta variant, since it can elicit immunity which neutralizes Delta making re-infection with Delta less likely,” they said.
However, the scientists said that implications of this displacement would depend on whether or not Omicron is less pathogenic compared to Delta.
“If so, then the incidence of COVID-19 severe disease would be reduced and the infection may shift to become less disruptive to individuals and society.”
Professor Alex Sigal of the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa, said on Monday that if Omicron was less pathogenic as it looked to be from the South African experience it would help push out the Delta Variant.
Earlier study in South Africa has shown that there is reduced risk of hospitalisation and severe disease in people infected with Omicron compared with the Delta variant.
Although the authors of the study opined that it is likely due to high population immunity.
The latest coronavirus variant, labelled Omicron, was initially detected in southern Africa and Hong Kong in November and has since spread worldwide, overwhelming hospitals in some countries.