Can a person be infected with Omicron twice? Here’s what experts have to say

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While Omicron is known to cause Covid re-infection, there is no strong evidence yet that a person affected with the vaccine-dodging strain will become infected again, according to Indian health experts here on Monday.

They did not, however, rule out such a possibility.

The memory of the parent virus exists in an individual’s immunity that has been primed by prior infection or vaccination.

However, because Omicron is a deviant, which means it has deviated significantly from its parent Covid strain, it has many differences.

As a result, “our immune system fails to recognise the virus as the original virus and hence the chance of re-infection. Along with the above the waning immunity of naturally infected individuals with passage of time will also contribute to the re-infection”, Dr. Dipu T.S, Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, told IANS.

Despite the fact that re-infections occur, “there is not yet strong evidence in favour” of Omicron recurring in an individual, according to Dr. Ashok Mahashur, Consultant Chest Physician at P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai.

According to a recent study led by the UK’s Imperial College London, the risk of re-infection with the Omicron variant is 5.4 times higher than with the Delta variant.

“This implies that the protection against re-infection by Omicron afforded by past infection may be as low as 19 per cent,” said the researchers.

According to Dr. Rahul Pandit, Director of Critical Care at Fortis Hospitals in Mumbai: “Omicron causes re-infection because it has an ‘immune escape phenomenon’ – that means that people who had acquired infection before and had antibodies, because of that or who are vaccinated and have antibodies, or have both, which is known as ‘hybrid immunity'”.

Omicron’s spike proteins have over 30 mutations, allowing it to avoid detection. That is why it is infecting people who previously had antibodies.

“However, there is no understanding if Omicron infection would happen again in these people, or not; that remains to be studied and seen,” Pandit, who is also a member of National and Maharashtra’s Covid-19 Taskforce, told IANS.

“We should not be speculating if such re-infection would happen or not. I haven’t seen any case as such of a patient with Omicron getting re-infected with another Omicron infection, neither has been reported anywhere in the medical journals and medical literature yet,” he said.

However, some Western experts believe that Omicron can reoccur.

“Yes, you can get Omicron twice,” Stanley Weiss, Professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School was quoted as saying in a media report.

While, “the data regarding Omicron specifically is just coming out, but there’s no reason to think that Omicron in this regard is any different than the previous variants”, added William Schaffner, Professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in the report.

However, Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, stated that it was “too early” for people who had previously been infected with the virus to be re-infected. Mills told the Financial Times that the picture might be clear in six months.

According to Mahashur, cases of Covid re-infection have been reported in India, particularly among those with low immunity.

“The best way to prevent this is by following a Covid appropriate behaviour. Because there is no way to know whether the virus is there or not. The virus may be there, but the patient may be asymptomatic, so the best way to prevent it is by taking vaccines, wearing masks, washing hands properly, and avoiding crowded places,” Mahashur told IANS.


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Brendan Taylor

Brendan Taylor was a TV news producer for 5 and a half years. He is an experienced writer. Brendan covers Breaking News at Insider Paper.

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