Omicron has high immune escape potential: INSACOG

Initial estimates show severity of illness lower, the genomics consortium says.

There is now clear experimental and clinical data supporting very high immune escape potential of Omicron, but initial estimates show the severity of illness being lower than what was seen in previous outbreaks, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG) said in its latest bulletin citing global data.

In India, appropriate public health measures and investigations are being conducted for surveillance of Omicron, INSACOG said while noting that globally there appears to be significantly reduced ability of vaccines or prior infection to protect against symptomatic infection by the Omicron variant.

“While Delta continues to be the most prevalent VOC globally, the Omicron variant has completely displaced it in southern Africa and is on track to become the dominant variant in U.K. and elsewhere,” INSACOG said in its bulletin released on December 29.

The genomic consortium, citing global data, said there is now clear experimental and clinical data supporting very high immune escape potential of Omicron, which appears to be the major component of its growth advantage over Delta.

“Initial estimates of severity of illness have, however, been lower than seen in previous outbreaks. Whether these initial observations are generalisable to older non-immune subjects is not clear and the threat level is still considered high,” it said.

The INSACOG reports genomic surveillance of SARS CoV-2 across the country through sequencing of samples from sentinel sites and also detailed state-wise district analysis for some States.

India has recorded 781 cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus across 21 States and UTs so far, out of which 241 people have recovered or migrated, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on December 29.

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