Omikron is spreading rapidly around the world. The number of cases is also increasing rapidly in Europe. In countries like Great Britain and Denmark, the new variant already accounts for a large part of the strongly increased infection rate.
Omikron is also on the advance in Germany. According to figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 10,443 of this new and very contagious variant have now been assigned nationwide (as of December 28). However, the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher, as there is much less testing over the holidays. In addition, many health departments and authorities are closed and do not transmit any figures.
More about this: Omikron hotspot Hamburg: Does the Hanseatic city show what is threatening all of Germany?
Study: titers of vaccinated and convalescent patients were compared
Since previous studies have already shown that. A new small study with less than 100 participants from Austria who are now im form published and has not yet been assessed by independent experts, but now shows that a so-called “super immunity” is possible against Omikron.
Doctors call this an immunity that can neutralize all forms of Sars-CoV-2. Another word for it is hybrid immunity. It occurs in people who have received a vaccination but then still have a Sars-CoV-2 infection or vice versa and is therefore probably the best protection against the new omicron variant.
Researchers at the American Rockefeller University in New York already had such a “super immunity” in a study that was published in the journal in September “Nature” was released, discovered. To do this, they changed the spike protein of the coronavirus in the laboratory, which is responsible for entering the cells in the human body. The result was a spike mutant with 20 changes that was completely resistant to the neutralizing antibodies of most of the vaccinated and convalescent – similar to what is now the case with Omikron. Only those who were vaccinated die, die before vaccination with corona infected and of Covid-19 virus in those who fight it much better than those who were “only” vaccinated or recovered. “It is very likely that they will be effective against any future variant that Sars-CoV-2 throws against them,” said virologist and study author Theodora Hatziioannou at the time.
Cross-vaccination offers better protection against omicrons than a vaccine alone
The Austrian researchers around Annika Rössler from the Institute of Virology at the University of Innsbruck and with other variants such as Delta Comparison. The researchers confirmed what had already been shown in some previous studies: the vaccine antibodies can neutralize Omikron to a much lesser extent than other variants.
A certain neutralization of the virus by the antibodies compared to other variants could only be determined in people who were completely vaccinated with Biontech and in people who were cross-vaccinated – first with Astrazeneca and then with Biontech.
The protection against Omikron was slightly better than with the other vaccines. In people who had only been vaccinated with Astrazeneca, however, there was no longer any protection against infection.
“Superimmune” can neutralize Omikron much better
In the case of the so-called “superimmune” people who either had a Sars-Cov-2 infection and were then vaccinated once or twice with Biontech or vice versa, it was different: their antibodies could neutralize Omikron. Of course, this does not mean that people should deliberately become infected with Sars-CoV-2 in order to generate “super immunity”.
The authors of the study point out that despite the “super immunity” everything speaks for a rapid development of variant-adapted vaccines. Even if a booster, like an additional infection, can increase the antibody level and probably continue to protect against the course of severe disease.
Booster protection against Omikron also diminishes over time
Some studies have already shown that a third vaccination offers protection against infection against Omikron than a double vaccination does. According to the laboratory results of the Frankfurt virologist Sandra Ciesek, the booster offers protection against Omikron infection around two weeks after the vaccination, which is 58 to 78 percent. After three months, however, this dropped significantly again. The virologist therefore warned against only relying on a third vaccination and neglecting the protective measures. There are already known cases of boosted people who have become infected and have also infected others with Omikron.
Even if the approved vaccines cannot provide sufficiently high protection against infections, researchers assume that the vaccinations still protect against a severe course of an omicron infection. Because not only antibodies, but also the T cells are decisive for the immune response in the body.
Vaccines protect against a severe course from Omikron
A completely new study from South Africa presents promising data on this. There they were vaccinated mainly with Biontech and Johnson & Johnson. The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the largest private health insurer Discovery are analyzing suspected Omikron cases. SAMRC President Glenda Gray said of Johnson & Johnson: “The good news is that the vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing serious illness and death” – because she does not escape the T-cell response. In contrast to the antibodies.
Omikron could produce milder gradients
Initial data from South Africa also provides indications that Omikron could produce milder courses than the previous variants in the pandemic. In the meantime, further studies seem to confirm these initial data. A new study from South Africa, for example, which evaluated data from infected people from the beginning of October to the end of November, shows that once the patients were in the clinic, there was no difference in the further course.
“The very interesting data strongly suggest a lesser severity of the Omicron wave of infection,” said Cheryl Cohen of South Africa’s National Institute for Transmissible (NICD). SHE warns, however, that the data are still early and that more studies are needed.
One British laboratory study with so-called pseudoviruses also showed that Omikron is less able to infect lung cells than Delta and could therefore trigger easier courses. To what extent the results can be transferred to real life, however, is unclear, the authors emphasize.