Omicron may have prolonged effect in India; Covid can't be eradicated: Harvard immunologist

Published on Jan 26, 2022 07:23 AM IST

As the sub-strain of Omicron, BA.2, is prominent in India and it is not yet known whether substrain is as mild as the main strain of Omicron (BA.1), concerns over prolonged effect of Omicron in India remains, the Harvard immunologist said.

Outstation passengers wait in a queue to undergo the Covid-19 test at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. (PTI)
Outstation passengers wait in a queue to undergo the Covid-19 test at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. (PTI)
By | Written by Poulomi Ghosh

Harvard immunologist Dr Shiv Pillai has said that Covid-19 will never be completely eradicated but vaccines and drugs will hopefully change many things in a few years down the line. The ongoing Omicron wave may have a prolonged effect in India, the immunologist expressed concerns as not much is known about the second version of Omicron (BA.2) that has started spreading in the country. "In India, there is a variant of Omicron BA.2 that's also spreading, it is different from Omicron. In fact, Omicron BA.1 is the original, but it's slightly different," Dr Pillai Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology, director, Harvard Immunology Graduate Programme at the Harvard Medical School, said to ANI.

BA.1, the first version of the Omicron, is slightly milder than the original virus and its variants like Alpha, Beta, Delta and did not affect the lungs badly. But with BA.2, it can't be confirmed as it is just being reported.

"Immunity from BA.1 first Omicron might give us some immunity against the second one BA.2. But will that second one be as mild? Not proven yet. We'll see the data will probably come from South Africa and India first. Because in India, BA.2 has taken over it is the most common version in India right now. It's rising the second version of Omicron," Dr Pillai said.

South Africa and the United States too have many BA.2 cases, Dr Pillai said, adding that it is not clear whether BA.2 will replace BA.1 and create another surge.

Agreeing with scientists who are of the opinion that Covid will become endemic, Dr Pillai said the virus will live on at some level, maybe in a less virulent form. Vaccinations and drugs will change a lot of things, the immunologist said.

The government's expert committee on genome sequencing (INSACOG) has said that Omicron is now in community transmission and has become dominant in multiple metros. "BA.2 lineage is a substantial fraction in India and S-gene dropout based screening is thus likely to give high false negatives," INSACOG said.

(With ANI inputs)

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