The omicron variant multiplies about 70 times faster inside the human body than the delta variant, according to new research from Hong Kong.
The variant also reaches higher levels in the tissue, compared with delta, 48 hours after infection.
“That’s amazing,” says immunologist Wilfredo Garcia-Beltran, who’s a fellow at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital and wasn’t involved in the study. This finding indicates that mutations in omicron have sped up the process of entering or replicating (or both) inside the tissue.
But how this finding, from tissue studied in the lab, relates to viral loads inside an actual person’s respiratory tract is still unknown, he emphasizes.
These findings from the University of Hong Kong haven’t been peer-reviewed — and the experiments occurred entirely inside cell tissue. Nonetheless, the research supports another study, published online Tuesday, from Garcia-Beltran and his colleagues that also suggests omicron is more infectious than delta.
Using “fake” or pseudoviruses, they found that omicron’s spike protein — the region that binds to human cells, triggering infection — was much better at helping the virus enter human cells than the spike protein of delta or that of the original coronavirus.