Covid-causing Omicron BF.7 variant highly transmissible but not as severe as Delta variant, say doctors
- The new variant has a 4.4-fold higher neutralisation resistance than the original D614G variant.
- But the good news is that this variant is not as severe as the
Deltavariant that dominated last year’s second wave, Dr Laxman Jessani told Business Insider India.
- As the BF.7 variant is more transmissible than other variants, experts say vaccines may be less effective at preventing transmission for this strain.
AdvertisementJust as Indians were getting ready to ring in the new year with a bang after two years of pandemic-induced low-key celebrations, a new
In fact, the variant has been around and was already dominant in October in many European countries and USA.
The variant has reached India as well. This week, four cases were reported – three from Gujarat and one from Odisha. However, the patients have all recovered now.
Even though India is currently only reporting less than 200 new cases daily, the new variant is getting the government and the healthcare system worried. On December 22, Prime Minister
The new variant has a 4.4-fold higher neutralisation resistance than the original D614G variant — meaning that in a lab setting, antibodies from a vaccinated or infected individual were less likely to destroy BF.7 than the original Wuhan virus that spread worldwide in 2020, according to a study published in the Cell Host and Microbe journal.
But the good news is that this variant is not as severe as the Delta variant, which was dominant in the second wave last year, according to Dr Laxman Jessani, consultant, infectious disease, Apollo Hospitals,
But BF.7 is not the most resilient sub-variant according to the study – there was an over 10-fold higher neutralisation resistance in another Omicron sub-variant called BQ.1.
A higher neutralisation resistance means there is a higher likelihood of the variant spreading in a population and replacing other variants.
People who are not vaccinated or have weaker immunity such as elderly citizens, children, pregnant females or people with multiple comorbidities are at a high risk of catching this infection.
AdvertisementAlso, the R0 value of this mutant as per studies is approximately 10-18.6 which means that any infected individual can infect 10-18.6 people around. The R0 value is a measure of the transmission rate of an infection and indicates how contagious a disease is.
Whereas, the R0 value of the original strain, that emerged in 2019-20, was 3.0-3.3. The BA.5 strain of Omicron also had the same R0 value of 18.6.
“There is a quicker infection rate of this virus, in hours, which makes it difficult to be detected in the RT-PCR test,” Dr Sandeep Ghanta, consultant, internal medicine, Citizens Specialty Hospital,
Are vaccines effective against this variant?
As BF.7 variant is more transmissible than other variants, vaccines may be less effective against this strain, according to Dr Jessani. However, doctors are still advising people to get their booster shots as it can help in strengthening the immune system.
AdvertisementDr Ghanta, however, suggests that a fourth vaccine shot may be helpful in preventing or triggering a new wave. “It is probable that if people get three to four shots of the vaccine, they may get protected. It is therefore very important for everyone to be more vigilant and responsive to taking
According to Dr Anurag Agarwal, former head of India’s Covid-19 genome sequencing consortium INSACOG, the vaccines protected people until the Omicron variant that emerged last year in December. “Until Omicron, vaccines could control the spread of the infection. After Omicron, the vaccines aren’t really able to stop transmission, but they do prevent deaths,” he said.
So, as the new year approaches, it’s time to mask up in crowded places and take basic precautions to protect against the infection.
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