What the latest omicron subvariants mean for reinfection risk

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

In the U.S., the BA.2.12.1 subvariant is gaining a foothold, while South Africa is seeing a surge in cases from two other subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5.

Omicron and its growing family of subvariants has left Americans wondering whether they have enough immunity to protect against the ever-changing virus.

Two subvariants — BA.4 And BA.5 — are spreading rapidly in South Africa, causing Covid-19 cases there to surge once again after the country’s first omicron wave in late 2021.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Full coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, in the U.S., another omicron subvariant, BA.2, continues to dominate, but an offshoot of that strain, called BA.2.12.1, is gradually taking up a greater share of infections.

Global Tech News Daily

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that, as of April 30, BA.2.12.1 accounts for roughly 36 percent of new Covid cases in the U.S., up from about 26 percent last week.

The U.S. has acquired a high level of immunity from Covid, health officials say, through a combination of vaccinations, boosters and prior infection. Nearly 60 percent of people in the country had been infected by February, including roughly 75 percent of children and teens.

Rising Covid infections and hospitalizations increase concerns

Global Tech News Daily

May 2, 202201:34

Still, research shows antibodies obtained from vaccination or infection gradually wane over time, and each new omicron subvariant, though still a part of the larger omicron family tree, is slightly different from the last, meaning a person’s ability to fight off infections from the virus can shift.

That means reinfection is possible, and perhaps even likely, said Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“At some point in the future, it’s reasonable for us to assume that your immune system is going to encounter a virus that can infect it,” Hanage said.

Subvariants vs. antibodies

At this time, it’s nearly impossible to make a sweeping conclusion about Americans’ susceptibility levels to the new subvariants because the immunological landscape in the U.S. is so varied, Hanage said: Some people are vaccinated, others unvaccinated but previously infected, and others still with a combination of vaccination and infection.

“We’re now in a situation where some people can be infected and some people can’t,” he said. “Those people who can get infected vary in terms of the probability that they’re going to be seriously ill.”

Julie Swann, a professor at North Carolina State University who has advised the CDC on pandemics, agreed, saying a person’s risk level can also depend on other factors, such as age, underlying health conditions and time since last vaccination or infection.

If a person in their 60s received a booster four to six months ago, they will be “potentially susceptible to a worse outcome from one of the omicrons but if it’s timed close to their boosters they may not be quite as much,” she said.

In general, people who have been vaccinated appear to have the best protection against the new omicron subvariants, said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa.

Sigal is one of the authors of a small preprint study posted online by South African scientists on Friday that suggested people previously infected with the original omicron strain don’t appear to have much immunity against BA.4 and BA.5 infections.

The scientists used blood samples from 39 people — 15 vaccinated and 24 unvaccinated — who were previously infected by the original omicron strain last year.

These blood samples, which contained any antibodies the people had developed, were mixed with samples of the BA.4 and BA.5 viruses to see how well the antibodies could fight off the new subvariants. These so-called neutralization assays can give scientists insights into whether people are protected against BA.4 and BA.5.

The subvariants were able to evade the antibodies from both unvaccinated and vaccinated people, suggesting the virus can get past the immune system’s first line of defense and cause an infection. But there were some notable differences: In unvaccinated samples, there was a nearly eightfold drop in antibodies against BA.4. and BA.5, compared with the original omicron strain; in vaccinated samples, there was only about threefold decrease.

The findings, which were posted to a preprint server and have yet to be peer-reviewed, suggest that unvaccinated people are unlikely to have good protection against symptomatic illness.

Sigal said the findings also suggest that people who’ve been both vaccinated and infected with the original omicron strain may actually have immunity that’s broader and can fight off newer strains.

Even if vaccinated people get infected “with these new lineages, my speculation is it’s going to be mild,” he said.

Another study posted online Monday by researchers in China looked at BA.4. and BA.5, as well as BA.2.12.1, the omicron subvariant currently gaining traction in the U.S.

The research seemed to confirm the findings of the South Africa study, and also found that vaccinated people and people infected with the original omicron strain don’t appear to neutralize BA.2.12.1 very well, which could increase the risk of reinfections.

John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College, cautioned that the Chinese research cannot be completely extrapolated to the U.S., as China has used different vaccines, which aren’t as effective as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

He also said it’s hard to use lab data to interpret what it’ll mean in a real-world setting.

Am I at risk of reinfection?

The data overall suggests the omicron subvariants are more antibody resistant than previous strains and could “pose additional problems for vaccinated and/or infected people,” Moore said.

“It’s a warning for the future that we’re going to see continued evolution and the emergence of more troubling variants,” he said. “They are going to either be more transmissible or more antibody resistant or both.”

Hanage said that while more people may be susceptible to reinfections, because of a high level of immunity from vaccines and prior infections, fewer people are likely to get severely ill.

Swann said she expects an “impactful” wave of Covid cases in the U.S. in June, when immunity from the latest round of boosters and omicron infections begins to wane. But she added she doesn’t expect hospitalization and deaths to reach the heights they did during the winter omicron surge.

She also said the people at highest risk now have access to Pfizer’s highly effective antiviral drug, Paxlovid, as well as preventive medications such as AstraZeneca’s monoclonal antibody, Evusheld.

Getting a Covid booster also reduces the risk of reinfection, she said.

Follow NBC HEALTH on Twitter & Facebook.

News Related


Man duct taped to his seat after fight on Frontier Airlines is sentenced to prison

The incident was captured in cellphone videos that went viral, bringing attention to the risks faced by flight attendants during the pandemic. Read more »

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly involved in car crash

One person was briefly hospitalized as a precautionary measure after the car collision in Dallas, police said. Read more »

Some religions support abortion rights. Their leaders are speaking up.

"We support abortion justice not despite our religious values but because of them." Read more »

Roe v. Wade live updates: Protests rage on over leaked abortion ruling

“This is about a lot more than abortion," President Joe Biden said Wednesday. “What are the next things that are going to be attacked? Read more »

Woman accused of 1996 fatal stabbing in California arrested in Texas

Jade Benning was taken into custody near her Austin home in connection with the January 1996 death of her boyfriend in Santa Ana, officials said. Read more »

Buildings damaged in possible tornado outside Oklahoma City

The Seminole County undersheriff said he did not know of any injuries. Read more »

British Virgin Islands premier gets $500,000 bond in drug case

Federal court Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes rejected prosecutors’ argument that Andrew Fahie may flee the U.S. and possibly engage in criminal activity if he is freed. Read more »

Kidd Creole sentenced to 16 years for fatal stabbing in New York City

The Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five rapper fatally stabbed a man after the two exchanged words. Kidd Creole argued self-defense. Read more »

‘It's already having an impact': LGBTQ people fear abortion rights reversal

Some LGBTQ people fear the reversal of abortion rights protections would have far-reaching impacts — both on their health and other rights such as marriage equality. Read more »

Abortion clinics are bracing for protests, harassment and violence if Roe falls

“News like this, political losses like this, can embolden people who want to harass or terrorize abortion providers,” an abortion-rights advocate said. Read more »

Wife of judge who dismissed Strauss lawsuits had $313K flag contract with OSU

Lawyers for the victims of former OSU doctor Richard Strauss say Judge Michael H. Watson should have recused himself from the cases. Read more »

Covid's toll in the U.S. reaches a once unfathomable number: 1 million deaths

"It's an exponential number of other people that are walking around with a small hole in their heart," one widow said. Read more »

Alabama officer accused of helping inmate escape no longer employed by sheriff's office

Vicky White, 56, is wanted on a charge of permitting or facilitating the escape of inmate Casey White on Friday. Read more »

'Very dangerous fire weather' as New Mexico braces for more wildfire conditions

The Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fire was 20 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, while the Cooks Peak fire was 89 percent contained, fire authorities reported. Read more »

Hiker's body found at base of California waterfall after 80-foot fall, officials say

Robert Carey Jr., 33, of Calimesa, was hiking at the San Bernardino National Forest when he fell, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Read more »

Trevor Reed family urges White House to bring Brittany Griner, Paul Whelan home from Russia 

The family of Reed, the former U.S. Marine who was held in Russian jail for nearly three years, spoke at a rally in front of the White House on Wednesday. Read more »

Judge overseeing Derek Chauvin civil rights case accepts plea deal

The judge said Wednesday he will sentence the former Minneapolis police officer to 20 to 25 years in prison. Read more »

U.S. takes unprecedented steps to replenish Colorado River's Lake Powell

If Lake Powell, the second largest U.S. reservoir, were to drop another 32 feet, the 1,320-megawatt plant would be unable to generate electricity for millions of people. Read more »

Trans youths who socially transition are unlikely to 'detransition' later, study finds

An overwhelming majority of youths who socially transitioned still identified as transgender five years later, according to the study. Read more »

Body of one of three children last seen entering the Mississippi River has been found

Kevin Poole Jr., 15, was located about two miles from where he and two girls, ages 8 and 14, were last seen. Read more »

Map: Abortion restriction bills pending in 40 states this year

More than 500 pieces of legislation taking aim at abortion access have been considered so far in 2022. Read more »

Missing 7-year-old girl's safety and well-being 'were not prioritized,' report finds

Harmony Montgomery has not been seen since 2019. New Hampshire police were made aware of her disappearance late last year. Read more »

Dallas toddler mauled by coyote on front porch, hospitalized

The attack came less than a week after a coyote attacked a 2-year-old girl on Southern California’s Huntington Beach. The coyote was later shot dead. Read more »

Mechanical failure behind deadly Navy helicopter crash, military says

The helicopter fell into the sea and sank about 70 miles off San Diego. One crewmember was rescued and five were declared dead after a search. Read more »

Roe v. Wade live updates: Reactions to Supreme Court leaked abortion ruling

President Joe Biden has said “a woman’s right to choose is fundamental” and that his administration “will be ready when any ruling is issued.” Read more »

Missouri man executed after death sentence is overturned three times

Carman Deck was the fifth person to be executed in the United States this year. Read more »

Three suspects charged with murder in California gun fight that left 6 dead

Smiley Martin, Dandrae Martin and Mtula Payton have each been charged with three counts of murder in the shooting last month that also wounded 12. Read more »

‘Speak up, don't be ashamed': Activists who fought for Roe urge younger generation to keep fighting

“This is worse than going backward, it’s a trampling of established fundamental rights,” said a lawyer who worked on women’s rights issues through legal and grassroots movements before Roe. Read more »

He's protested abortions outside Mississippi's sole clinic for years. Now he might retire.

“I’ll probably get to fish,” said David Lane, an anti-abortion rights activist who demonstrates regularly outside the Jackson clinic at the center of the Supreme Court case. Read more »

Norman Mineta, pioneering Asian American who served in 2 presidential Cabinets, dies at 90

Mineta served under both Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush. Read more »

Latino abortion rights advocates warn of ‘dark times' if Roe v. Wade is reversed

The impact of the Supreme Court decision would "fall hardest on those who already struggle to access health care, including abortion," says a national abortion rights leader. Read more »

Daughter of 'Jane Roe' fears overturning decision 'could take us back 50 years' 

Melissa Mills, eldest daughter of Norma McCorvey, said whether to have an abortion "shouldn’t be anybody else’s choice but that woman who needs to make that decision." Read more »

Anti-abortion activist climbs San Francisco skyscraper, arrested on trespassing charges

Maison Des Champs, 22, was detained by police on top of Salesforce Tower, America's 12th tallest building, and booked for alleged trespassing and resisting arrest. Read more »

Relationships between corrections officers and inmates are 'a very common story'

The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office confirmed there was a “special relationship” between corrections officer Vicky White and suspect Casey White, who disappeared together last week. Read more »

Decomposed body found in barrel on shore of shrinking Lake Mead

Investigators believe the victim was killed between the 1970s and 1980s based on the clothes and shoes found on the body, police said. Read more »

Leader of the Mississippi abortion clinic at the center of the SCOTUS case may move to New Mexico if Roe is overturned

Shannon Brewer, director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told NBC News she is considering opening a clinic in New Mexico if the Supreme Court allows Mississippi to further restrict abortion. Read more »

Fox breaks into bird habitat and kills 25 flamingos at Smithsonian National Zoo

There were 74 flamingos in the Washington, D.C., zoo's flock prior to the attack, authorities said. Read more »

State seeks death penalty for Lori Vallow, charged with killing her children

The Idaho woman last month pleaded not guilty to the murder charges against her. Read more »

Man working on Ferris wheel falls to death at Jersey Shore amusement park, officials say

Robert Sanger, 62, a subcontractor working on a lift at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, "suffered a fatal injury Monday morning," the amusement park’s president said. Read more »

Brittney Griner now considered 'wrongfully detained' in Russia, U.S. officials say

The change in official classification means the U.S. will be more aggressive in its efforts to secure the WNBA star's release. Read more »