Quebec Standard

Hong Kong team highlights the reason for quick spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant

Hong Kong team shares an expanded image of human bronchus tissue infected with the Omicron version of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (in red)

In research laboratories by a team in Hong Kong, an expanded image of human bronchus tissue contaminated with the Omicron version of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. New research from a Hong Kong-based team sheds light on why the Omicron coronavirus variety is growing so quickly around the world: it may be multiplying 70 times faster in our lower airways than previous strains.

The laboratory-based study, led by academics from the University of Hong Kong’s LKS Faculty of Medicine, was released as a press statement on Wednesday and is currently being peer-reviewed for publication.

The researchers discovered that Omicron develops 70 times quicker in tissue samples of human bronchi — the two big tubes that convey air from your windpipe to your lungs — just 24 hours after contamination than either the Delta variant or the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s a discovery that might clarify why Omicron seems to spread faster across humans than other variants, and it contrasts sharply with how the variant reproduced in the research team’s samples of genuine lung tissue vs. bronchi. The variant grew at a rate more than ten times slower than the original virus in those lung samples.

COVID-19 consequences such as pneumonia and, in severe cases, acute lower respiratory tract syndrome, or ARDS, are linked to the lungs, not the bronchi. If the findings hold up in a real-world scenario, the researchers believe that slower replication in the lungs could indicate less disease severity.

The discovery is also consistent with early findings from South Africa that Omicron is connected to a milder course of sickness.

Source: CBC News

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