July 17, 2024

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Researchers figure out how COVID-19 Omicron variant evolved to overcome lung defenses

Researchers figure out how COVID-19 Omicron variant evolved to overcome lung defenses



 

Researchers figure out how COVID-19 Omicron variant evolved to overcome lung defenses. 

Currently, most cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection worldwide are caused by the Omicron virus variant. Omicron generally causes less severe disease than its predecessor.

This is mainly due to Omicron’s reduced ability to infect lung cells, and therefore cause pneumonia less frequently.

However, an international team of researchers including scientists from the German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research has discovered a mutation in the spike protein of the omiclonal subvariant BA.5. This mutation enables the virus to efficiently infect lung cells again.

 

This study provides evidence that omecroron subvariants may have evolved in such a way that they regained the ability to efficiently infect the lungs and cause severe disease in high-risk patients and immunocompromised individuals. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

 

Researchers figure out how COVID-19 Omicron variant evolved to overcome lung defenses. 

 

In the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of 2022, BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron subvariants dominate. These subvariants had a reduced ability to infect lung cells compared to the delta variant and other variants.

However, the BA.5 subvariant overtook other Omicron subvariants in the fall of 2022, and its infection efficiency was initially unclear.

The team led by Markus Hoffmann and Stefan Pöhlmann from the German Primate Center demonstrated that, thanks to a mutation in the spike protein, BA.5 actually infects lung cells much more efficiently than the previous Omicron sub-variant.

 

The researchers found that the spike protein of the BA.5 Omicron subvariant was cleaved more efficiently than its predecessor.

In addition, the spike protein of BA.5 facilitates virus entry into lung cells and improves cell fusion efficiency. The research team used “pseudoviruses” as a safety model to study how viruses penetrate lung cells.

 

Markus Hoffmann, first author of the study, explains: “We found that BA.5 acquired a mutation that allowed the virus to penetrate lung cells more efficiently than the previously dominant Omicron subvariant.

The continuous evolution of the Omicron subvariant may therefore in the future produce viruses that spread efficiently to the lower respiratory tract and can cause severe disease, at least in patients without effective immune protection. 9Δ/V70Δ” key mutation.”

 

To test these findings, the team of Christian Drosten at the Department of Virology at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin carried out further experiments with real viruses.

These experiments confirmed that the BA.5 strain efficiently infects lung cells, thus confirming the findings of the University of Göttingen.

To determine whether Omicron BA.5 could also infect the organism’s lung cells, the University of Iowa researchers compared the lungs of mice infected with BA.5 with those infected with other subvariants.

They found that BA.5 replicated 1,000-fold more efficiently in the lungs of mice compared with earlier Omicron subvariants.

 

Finally, experiments in ferrets at the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute in Greifswald-Reims, Germany, showed that the BA.5 subvariant spreads more efficiently in the upper respiratory tract than previous viral variants.

 

Stefan Pöhlmann, Head of the Infection Biology Group at the German Primate Center: “All in all, this shows that the BA.5 subvariant is highly infectious like other Omicron subvariants and has also evolved the ability to infect lung cells with high efficiency. Therefore, the further evolution of the Omicron subvariant should be closely monitored so that variants with increased risk potential can be quickly identified.”

 

 

Researchers figure out how COVID-19 Omicron variant evolved to overcome lung defenses

(source:internet, reference only)


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