South African study finds Omicron could displace Delta by boosting immunity

(Reuters Image)

(Reuters Image)

UPDATED 10:07 AM PT – Thursday, December 30, 2021

Researchers in South Africa have suggested Omicron could displace the Delta variant. According to a study this week, infection with the new variant boosts immunity against the Delta variant, in turn, making reinfection less likely.

Scientists wrote, “these results are consistent with Omicron displacing the Delta variant, since it can elicit immunity which neutralizes Delta making reinfection with Delta less likely.”

Additionally, an earlier study found there is a reduced risk of hospitalization and severe illness for people infected with Omicron compared to the Delta variant. However, the scientist who led the recent study said people who were infected with Delta are not necessarily protected from Omicron infection.

“Certainly, previous infection is also one way you build up immunity to the next variant and that may be what’s happening here,” stated Alex Sigal, a professor at Africa Health Research Institute. “I don’t suggest people getting infected on purpose, but as far as perhaps the consequences of infection with this variant perhaps it may make the situation here somewhat better than it was before in terms of pre-existing immunity and waiting for the next variant.”

However, epidemiologists cautioned even if Omicron proves less severe than Delta, it could still overwhelm hospitals.

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