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Omicron causes pneumonia 2-3 times faster than previously known strains, expert says

The Omicron coronavirus strain can cause pneumonia 2-3 times faster than the previously known coronavirus strains, said Alexander Semyonov, who heads the Yekaterinburg Research Institute of Viral Infections (an affiliate of the Vector Center of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing) when speaking with Izvestia.

"What’s not good about the Omicron strain, is that just like Delta it has more tropism, meaning, it is capable of interacting with the epithelium of lungs, the lower respiratory tract. This is why Omicron descends into the lungs faster, causing pneumonia. This is very alarming. With the infection with the ‘old’ coronavirus an individual had up to 10-11 days from the moment of infection to pneumonia. This time, it was possible to come from the most remote village to a hospital where one can obtain qualified help. Now it’s 3-5 days," the expert explained.

According to him, the spread of the strain will not strongly impact the effectiveness of vaccines. "It is possible it will be somewhat lower but not critically so. There are no exact data yet, only the preliminary ones. According to some data, the effectiveness decreases, yet no more than by 40%, not several-fold. According to other data, it decreases even less," the expert stressed.

The scientist noted that overall, the scenario of the development of the pandemic now exclusively depends on the immunization rate of the population. "If vaccination rates increase with the same speed they’re increasing with now, then we can expect another small increase and then the incidence will go down, flaring up from time to time. If the rates do not increase, then it is possible to expect another rise in incidence closer to spring," he explained.

The expert also said that after the end of the current pandemic, new coronaviruses will emerge, ready to break through interspecies barriers and come to humans.

"Recently, an expedition of Paris’ Pasteur Institute and the Lao Academy of Sciences worked in a hard-to-access unpopulated region between Vietnam, Laos and China. These are mountains covered with jungles, caves, forest, swamps, waterfalls - impassable places. The scientists took samples from wild bats there and isolated coronaviruses surprisingly similar to SARS-CoV-2. And these new viruses also can effectively infect human cells, this was verified under laboratory conditions. They are waiting for their moment. There are also several groups of viruses that are also standing on the threshold of the interspecies barrier and are ready to break through it, and come to humans. We have to realize that this may happen in the near future and be prepared for it," he said.

[Source: Tass, Moscow, 08Dec21]

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