According to new studies that were conducted in animal research, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is much less severe than other strains because it causes less damage to the lungs.
The lungs are less affected
Analysis made on mice and hamsters found that the super-contagious variantmostly attacked the upper airway of rodents, which include the nose, throat and windpipe. Compared to how harmful previous strains were on people's lungs—causing scarring in lungs and breathing problems as a result—Omicron has been observed to not have the same effect.
What's more, since the South African strain is concentrated in the upper airway of its hosts—the nose and throat primarily—it is much likelier to get expelled in the form of tiny droplets and infect others than was the case with previous variants. Ravindra Gupta, a virologist at the University of Cambridge explained:
It’s all about what happens in the upper airway for it to transmit, right?It’s not really what happens down below in the lungs, where the severe disease stuff happens.
You can’t predict the behavior of virus from just the mutations, so you can understand why the virus has evolved in this way.
Omicron grows slower in people's lungs
Further, according to a study carried out at the University of Hong Kong, the Omicron variant grew more slowly on 12 samples of human lungs that were infected with the variant. When, in the same study, researchers infected human bronchi—the tubes in the upper chest that deliver air from the windpipe to the lungs—with Omicron, the virus was able to spread faster. Roland Eils, a computational biologist at the Berlin Institute of Health said:
It’s fair to say that the idea of a disease that manifests itself primarily in the upper respiratory system is emerging.