The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Partially Funded a Variation Study of Omicron With Surprising Conclusion About Reinforcers

The latest omicron variant may be adept at evading the immune response our bodies produces from a vaccine or previous COVID-19 infection, but a new study suggests that current booster shots will still be beneficial.

Getting enough of a booster could generate an antibody response and protect against severe disease outcomes to resist any of the new Omicron subvariants, according to an early release paper published this week in Sciences. That extends to BA.5, which is now the most prevalent strain of COVID in the United States and a driver of the re-spread of COVID-19 across the country.

The finding comes as the Biden administration considers whether it will expand access to a second booster dose to all adults due to concerns that the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants will drive cases and hospitalizations. Since March, anyone age 50 or older or immunocompromised and at least 12 years old is eligible for a second booster dose, according to the CDC’s recommendations.

Led by the University of Washington’s Veesler Lab, the research team began a few months ago by looking only at the variants previously held BA.1, BA.2, and BA.2.12.1, and later added a bachelor’s degree. and BA.5. It assessed the characteristics of these sub-variables and assessed how a combination of seven vaccines already available in the United States and around the world might protect against them.

BA.5 is a relatively new alternative to Omicron but is “perhaps the most important now in study as it is on the cusp of becoming globally dominant,” according to John Bowen, one of the paper’s lead authors and a biochemist at Veesler Lab.

The BA.5 strain has been described as the most contagious to date, so much so that vaccinated people have reported having it even after the recent bout of COVID-19. The first part of the study sheds light on the reason for this; BA.5 can outperform the other sub variants because its elevated protein binds to the host receptor six times more than the original strain first circulated in 2019.

The researchers eventually decided that BA.5 would be the most elusive COVID-19 immunogen to date, but that doesn’t mean that our previous boosters can no longer restore protection.

“We’ve basically been able to look at every prominent vaccine platform in the world side by side and see that as dangerous as this alternative is, all of these vaccine platforms will lead to robust immune responses,” Bowen said. luck.

Given BA.5’s reputation, the results initially surprised the researcher.

Bowen recounted, “When I was seeing the data after the third shot, I had to repeat it over and over because I was like, ‘Why can’t I see that’s an immune evasive like the others have said?'” “We were very excited to see that although it is more immune-evading than other methods we’ve tested, previous methods still protect against it.”

The research effort was an international collaboration between infectious disease research clinicians and scientists from UW Medicine, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, and institutes in California, Argentina, Italy, Pakistan, and Switzerland. It has received funding from a large number of sources, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration has advised vaccine manufacturers to update their booster shots to target the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants. While people wait, Bowen said the research indicates that vaccines designed for a strain a few years ago still work.

“We totally agree that it’s very important to keep trying to find better ways to make preventative vaccines,” he said. “It will take some time to get those. If people need vaccines, we know the current booster methods will be preventative.”

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com

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