Omicron ‘grows 70 times faster in the airways but 10 times slower in the lungs’, making it ‘more contagious but less severe’

A new study has found the Omicron Covid variant multiplies 70 times faster than Delta in the human respiratory tract but 10 times slower in the lungs.

Scientists at the University of Hong Kong say the findings may suggest the disease is more contagious but less severe, as it has driven daily infections in the UK to a record high.

People line up to get vaccinated in central London


People line up to get vaccinated in central LondonCredit: Goff


When the new figures were released, Boris Johnson step up his plea for Brits to get boosters and give arms to the volunteers for the vaccine to help defeat Omicron.

The Prime Minister said there are “signs of hope” that the new jab blitz game will help the national battle against Covid.

New research – which is being peer-reviewed – shows that the virus is able to replicate much more quickly in the tubes that attach the windpipe to the lungs, called bronchi.

But they found that it struggles to reproduce effectively in lung tissue, which may be why some people experience cold symptoms but some become severe.

Even so, the study’s lead professor, Dr Michael Chan Chi-Wai, warned that “the overall threat from the Omicron variant could be significant”.

It is important to note that “the severity of disease in humans is determined not only by viral replication but also by the host’s immune response to infection,” he said.

“By infecting even more people, a highly contagious virus can cause more severe illness and death even though the virus itself may be less pathogenic,” he said.

For their study, the researchers successfully isolated Omicron and used lung tissue to investigate the new mutation.

They compared Omicron with the original strain and with Delta.

The researchers found that Omicron “replicated faster than the original Sars-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant in human bronchi.”

They say that 24 hours after infection, the Omicron variant “replicates about 70 times higher than the original Delta variant and Sars-CoV-2 virus”.

“In contrast, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently (10-fold lower) in human lung tissue than did the original Sars-CoV-2 virus, possibly indicating lower disease severity. “

Dr Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Service, said care homes and hospital wards have seen up to 80 per cent of people become infected.

But she told walkie talkie: “They’re mostly asymptomatic and mildly infectious. I’m still optimistic that omicrons will be milder.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s top doctor has warned Omicron is not necessarily milder than earlier strains of the virus, as data from South Africa shows.

Professor Chris Whitty tried to dispel the myth that people wouldn’t be hospitalized with Omicron at Wednesday’s Downing Street briefing.

Britain’s chief medical officer said he wanted to place a “serious caution” over what appeared to be positive data emerging from South Africa.

Country says Hospitalization with Omicron was 29% lower than the other variants.

Whitty also warned people to go beyond current restrictions by prioritize social gatherings that’s really important, “usually it’s family”.

He even urges his friends to meet outside if possible before Christmas.

Huge queues are forming again at vaccination centers today as everyone over 18 is also eligible to order a third shot online.

Chris Whitty warned against jumping to conclusions about the Omicron virus


Chris Whitty warned against jumping to conclusions about the Omicron virusCredit: Getty
Chris Whitty warns Omicron being milder is a myth – despite low hospitalizations Omicron ‘grows 70 times faster in the airways but 10 times slower in the lungs’, making it ‘more contagious but less severe’

Tom Vazquez

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