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Omicron variant

Recent animal research on the Covid-19 Omicron variant is helping scientists understand how the virus spreads and causes disease.

Researchers at EARA member KU Leuven, Belgium, found that Syrian hamsters (known to be infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and exposed to Omicron variant) had lower levels of virus and less disease than seen with other variants.

While in another study, based on research in mice and hamsters. a team of Japanese and US scientists found that the Omicron variant had less of an effect on the lungs than previous mutations.

Their findings echoed similar results found by the University of Hong Kong, China, using samples of human tissue taken from the airways and lungs, where Omicron grew more slowly in lung tissues.

These results, which are all pre-print papers and have not been peer reviewed, will now be followed up in experiments with monkeys, as well as analysis of patients with Omicron, but could go some way to explaining why the variant seems to be less likely to require hospitalisation.

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