Friday, 12 Aug 2022

Opinion | Setting the Record Straight on Variants and Reinfections

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By Jeremy Kamil

Dr. Kamil is a virologist and associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport.

The blitz of Omicron variants has felt like one long wave. And many questions have arisen amid the tumult. Are we seeing the emergence of entirely new coronavirus variants that are impervious to immunity from vaccines and previous infections? If we keep getting reinfected, is it inevitable that most of us will end up developing long Covid?

In short, the answer is no.

As a virologist, it’s important to me that people understand Covid-19 remains a great concern. But this does not excuse or license a misdiagnosis of the current situation.

Let’s start with what is true. BA.5, one of the most recent Omicron variants to emerge, is everywhere. It unquestionably has an advantage in terms of transmissibility over previous Omicron lineages, most likely because it’s better at evading our existing repertoire of antibodies.

BA.5 and its close cousin BA.4 have a key mutation that enables them to sneak past an important class of so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies. These particular antibodies did a great job of preventing infections from a wide swath of earlier variants.

That’s changed in some ways.

In recent weeks I’ve watched many vaccinated friends and family members get infected with the coronavirus for the first time. The most concerning of these are cases like a colleague of mine who was infected in May and again in June, both times becoming ill.

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