The Omicron is more likely to infect the throat than the lungs explaining why it’s less deadly than other previous variants.
In studies yet to be peer-reviewed by other scientists, studies from six research groups have indicated that the Omicron variant is more likely to infect the throat than the lungs.
This may explain why the new variant is more contagious but less deadly than other previous variants.
The studies on mice and hamsters found that Omicron does not damage people’s lungs as much as the Delta and other variants.
The variant causes mild illness but has a lower risk of hospitalization.
The study showed that when compared to Delta and the original coronavirus, the Omicron variant was much quicker at getting into the bronchus but much slower at infiltrating the lung tissue itself.
According to the researchers, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently, more than 10 times lower, once inside the human lung tissue than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, which may suggest lower severity of the disease.
A research team in Glasgow found why the variant is unable to infect the lung cells as much as it does the upper airways.
They found an essential protein found on lung cells called TMPRSS2, which usually helped previous SARS-COV-2 variants to gain entry into the lung cells themselves bound-less strongly to Omicron, meaning it was more difficult for the variant to get inside and infect lung cells.
The virus enters the cells lining the nose, throat, and upper airways in a different way, so although it was found in high quantities in these parts of the airways, the concentration of the virus was lower in lung tissue.
This might also partly explain why the Omicron variant is so transmissible, if it is concentrated in high quantities in the upper airways, viruses are more likely to be coughed, sneezed, or breathed out from these parts of the airways and infect other people.