Is there a variant comeback? | Omicron infection could protect against Delta
A laboratory worker prepares a PCR test Photo: Bernd Weibbrod/dpa
Omikron has a firm grip on Germany. According to the weekly report of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 95 percent of all new corona infections are now attributable to the variant.
However, while omicron is significantly more contagious than the delta variant, it is much less likely to lead to severe courses of the disease. Hope: With Omikron and the resulting contagion, we are on our way out of the pandemic.
In the recent past, however, experts had expressed doubts about it. You believe that the more dangerous Delta variant may return. Now the question arises: Are people who have been through Omikron protected from infection with Delta??
Is Corona moving into the endemic situation?
Most recently, there had been cautious hopes that Corona could move into a so-called endemic situation. That would mean: The virus occurs regularly regionally, but most people have immunity through vaccination or infection. Similar to malaria, which is a regular occurrence in some African countries. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the virus no longer mutates so strongly.
However, it is still unclear when exactly this transition to the endemic situation will take place. Virologist Sandra Ciesek, 42, says, "It’s important to understand that you don’t reach an endemic stage until everyone has had some kind of contact – either through vaccination or infection – and then the courses just become milder. And we are not there yet."
The concern about a delta return
Most recently, experts in the fields of virology and endemics had expressed concern that the more dangerous delta variant could return.
Ulrike Protzer is head of the Institute of Virology at the Technical University of Munich. She told Funke-Mediengruppe, "It is absolutely possible that after the current wave subsides, delta will return. We cannot be sure that Omikron will replace Delta." Immunity after omicron infection is "a little different" than after delta infection, she says. "But if you’ve been vaccinated and then maybe you’ve had an additional infection, your immune system can handle new variants that might come now well."
Gerard Krause, an epidemiologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, also expressed skepticism to the Funke Media Group: "I do not share the euphoria that Omikron is now leading us into endemic. We don’t know what other variants are coming that may bypass immunity and also lead to severe courses of disease."
Study gives reason for hope
But: South African researchers have now investigated whether people who were infected with Omikron could also be protected against Delta. To do this, they reviewed blood samples from several people who had become infected during the omicron wave in South Africa. During the infection, the test subjects had formed antibodies. Using these, the researchers were able to perform tests and see whether the test subjects had developed natural protection against omicron and delta.
The result of the study: the antibodies of the test subjects were also able to neutralize viruses of the delta variant! Means: Infection with Omikron also offers protection against Delta. What this means for upcoming variants, however, cannot yet be said with certainty.