African Scientists Again Lead Research on Omicron Covid Variant

Vaccines against the virus that causes Covid-19 may provide less immunity to the Omicron variant than to other major versions of Covid-19, according to laboratory experiments in South Africa. In a research paper by scientists of the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban (AHRI), a team led by virologist Alex Sigal tested the variant against the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and found a 40-fold drop in antibodies compared to an earlier Covid-19 strain. Researchers noted that real-world vaccine effectiveness may be higher, because the antibody response is only one part of the body's immune reaction. 

The findings build on previous acheivements of southern African researchers, including the initial detection of the Omicron variant by scientists in Botswana and South Africa. Sandile Cele from the lab Sigal established at AHRI was the first to successfully isolate the live beta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which the researchers made available for global research.

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