The new super mutant Omicron variant of Covid-19 can increase risk of reinfection by three times as compared to other variants of concern such as Beta and Delta, according to a preliminary study by South African researchers.
The study, published pre-print on medrxiv, which means not peer-reviewed yet, showed that recent reinfections have occurred in individuals whose primary infections occurred across all three waves, with the most having their primary infection in the Delta wave.
Population-level evidence suggested that the Omicron variant is associated with substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection. This finding has important implications for public health planning, particularly in countries like South Africa with high rates of immunity from prior infection, the researchers said.
"We find evidence of increased reinfection risk associated with emergence of the #Omicron variant, suggesting evasion of immunity from prior infection," Juliet R.C. Pulliam, from DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, wrote on Twitter.
The team examined whether SARS-CoV-2 reinfection risk has changed through time in South Africa, in the context of the emergence of the Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants and conducted a retrospective analysis of routine epidemiological surveillance data from 2,796,982 individuals with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 who had a positive test result at least 90 days prior to 27 November 2021. The results showed that 35,670 individuals had suspected reinfections.
They developed two methods to monitor signatures of changes in reinfection risk -- a null model with no change in reinfection risk and compared observed patterns to projections under the null model.
"Using this approach, we start to see reinfection numbers exceeding the projection intervals from mid-November in Gauteng and nationally,"Pulliam said.
In the other approach, the team looked at trends in the relative hazards of primary infection and reinfection.
"Since early October, we see a decreased risk of primary infection, though this could be partially explained by vaccine rollout. We see a simultaneous increase in reinfection risk.
"We also see a recent increase in the number of reinfections in individuals who had already had multiple suspected infections from mid-November.
"These findings suggest that Omicron's selection advantage is at least partially driven by an increased ability to infect previously infected individuals," Pulliam said.
However, the study does not provide information about the vaccination status of individuals in the data set and therefore the researchers said they cannot conclude whether Omicron also evades vaccine-derived immunity and the potential implications of reduced immunity to infection on protection against severe disease and death.
"Immune escape from prior infection, whether or not Omicron can also evade vaccine derived immunity, has important implications for public health globally, but there is still a lot we don't know," Pulliam said.
The team aims to next include quantifying the extent of Omicron's immune escape for both natural and vaccine-derived immunity, as well as its transmissibility relative to other variants. (Agency)
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Two persons in Karnataka have tested positive for Omicron, the newest variant of Covid-19, after genome sequencing, Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said here on Thursday.
Both cases have travel history to South Africa.
"Two cases of Omircron have been detected in Karnataka so far through genome sequencing effort of INSACOG consortium of 37 laboratories established by the Ministry of Health. We need not panic, but awareness is absolutely essential. Covid appropriate behaviour is required," Bhargava said.
The contacts of the duo who tested positive for the latest variant have been identified and are under monitoring, he said.
"All Omicron related cases are found to have mild symptoms so far. No severe symptoms have been noticed in all such cases, both in the country and abroad. The WHO has said that the virus' emerging evidence is being studied," said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry, adding that around 29 countries across the world have reported 373 cases of Omicron so far.
Adressing a press conference on the ongoing Covid situation, Agrawal said that a surge in cases is being observed across the world, with Europe alone reporting 70 per cent of the cases in the past one week. (agency)
Read in Hindi► ओमिक्रॉन की भारत में दस्तक, कर्नाटक में दो मामलों का पता चला
The drug BGR-34 is available to patients in the country since 2015. The formulation was developed and required scientific studies were carried out by the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) and Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), research units functioning under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The tests include standardization, product validation on the basis of modern scientific parameters, antioxidant activity determination, optimization of herbal components for best activity, assessment of anti-diabetic activity and safety studies etc.
Availability of the Ayurvedic drug BGR-34 in Government Hospitals and Dispensaries in the country falls under the domain of procurement agencies of the concerned State Government/Public Sector Undertaking (PSU’s)/Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS)/Municipalities/Employee State Insurance (ESI)/New Delhi Municipal Corporation(NDMC) etc.
Since BGR-34 is licensed under the proprietary Ayurvedic Medicine category and its availability is possible only through tenders. Inclusion of drug BGR-34 in the tender depends on the responsive bid, price and qualifying approved Standard Operative Procedure (SOP) for procurement norms of the concerned procurement agency.
NDMC and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)make availability of Medicine for any resident of Delhi. In ESI the availability of the drug is subject to having a valid ESI Health card by the individual and their family. In CGHS the Medicine is made available to CGHS beneficiaries through local chemists as it does not come through tender.
The government of India has adopted a strategy of Co-location of AYUSH facilities at Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and District Hospitals (DHs), thus enabling the choice to the patients for different systems of medicines under a single window. The engagement of AYUSH Doctors/ paramedics and their training is supported by the Department of Health & Family Welfare.
While the support for AYUSH infrastructure, equipment/furniture and medicines are provided by the Ministry of AYUSH under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National AYUSH Mission (NAM). Similarly, Ministry is also doing efforts for the operationalization of AYUSH Health & Wellness Centres by upgrading AYUSH dispensaries and existing Sub health centres through NAM under the collaboration of the Department of Health & Family Welfare.
This information was given by the Minister of Ayush Shri Sarbananda Sonowal in a written reply in Rajya Sabha today.
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Implementation Committee of National Education Policy 2020 formed by the Department of Higher Education, which includes experts from the Ministry of Ayush. As per the meeting held on 19th July 2021 of the Implementation Committee, an action taken report has been shared by the Ministry of Ayush regarding inputs for implementation of the New Education Policy.
Further, a team of experts from the National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA) a deemed to be a university Under De-novo Category has drafted an outline of syllabus based on Ayurveda and Yoga for School Children from 1st to 10/12th Standard including Nursery, LKG and UKG levels which has been sent Department of School Education and Literacy.
The All India Institute Ayurveda (AIIA) has developed an immunity-boosting ‘Bala Raksha Kit’ for Children up to the age of 16 years. This kit has been made under the strict guidelines of the Ministry of AYUSH. This fights common infections and keeps them healthy. The kit is comprised of Syrup Bal Ayu Raksha Kwatha (Consisting base) which have medicinal qualities, a part from Anu Oil, Samshamani Vati and Chywanprash. It has been manufactured by Indian Medicines Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited (IMPCL), a Government of India enterprise, at its Uttrakhand based plant.
This information was given by the Minister of Ayush Shri Sarbananda Sonowal in a written reply in Rajya Sabha today.
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As fear grows over a new Covid variant now known as Omicron, doctors in South Africa have observed first symptoms of this new and deadly strain that are different from the Delta one.
Although yet to be officially listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), patients infected with this strain show extreme tiredness, among other noticeable symptoms.
"This is not limited to any age group. Young patients also show extreme tiredness," according to Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of the South African Medical Association.
There is also no major drop in oxygen saturation levels, Coetzee said in media reports.
The Omicron patients also reported mild muscle aches, a scratchy throat, and dry cough, according to the doctor.
The patients that Coetzee treated were mostly men, aged under 40, and around half of them were even vaccinated.
Although in a ray of hope, the doctors in South Africa said most patients of Omicron strain have recovered without hospitalisation.
The overall global risk related to the new Covid variant, Omicron is assessed as very high, said the World Health Organisation on Monday.The WHO said on Monday that Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26-32 in the spike, some of which are of concern and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.
However, there are still considerable uncertainties, added the global health body. "Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possible transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high," said the WHO.
Read More► WHO Classifies B.1.1.529 As 'Variant of Concern' Named Omicron
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the new Covid variant detected in southern Africa this week as the 'Variant of Concern' following the Technical Advisory Group meeting on Friday.
"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a Variant of Concern and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron", said the global health body in a statement.
The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24, 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021.
The WHO has asked the countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants and submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database. The WHO has reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of Covid-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.
The WHO said that this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are of concern.
Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re-infection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage, said the WHO.
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus. The TAG-VE was convened on 26 November 2021 to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529. (agency)
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