Issues in COVID-19 research and statistical analyses (Part XVVVIII)
April 13, 2022
In one of the latest Scientific American article, “What We Know about Omicron’s BA.2 Variant So Far”, the article summarizes some of the latest research about this new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. However, that is just what it does, summarizes the latest information. Several research findings are mentioned but often no details or sources are provided. Therefore we have no statistics to be able to discuss from this article.
The author gave this quote, “As soon as it could jump to other countries, BA.2 exploded across Africa, Europe and Asia, and it currently accounts for nearly 55% of all new SARS-CoV-2 infections in the U.S., according to latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”, which at least seems to be backed up by the CDC and their data.
The article does go on to discuss the biological mechanisms behind Omicron, especially as compared to the other variants of COVID-19 like alpha, beta, and delta. This section has the most detail. In constrast, this variant has developed a much higher degree of susceptibility than its predecessors namely through the many mutations it has endured from the original form and in the spike protein that make it more penetrable. Omicron was also able to resist prior immunity in people who were infected with prior variants of Sars-CoV-2.
Then the author goes on to mention, “Fortunately, evidence so far indicates that disease symptoms caused by BA.2 are not more severe than those caused by BA.1 in vaccinated people or people who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, according to Sasisekharan.” He is a biological engineer at MIT who they quote a few times in the article. However, what is the evidence he is talking about and from what study? Is this from peer-reviewed research or a preprint article? The readers are left without results.
The author also states, “Early evidence suggests that reinfections with BA.2 after BA.1 do occur but are rare. “If you were infected with BA.1, then you’re probably well protected from BA.2,” Griffin says. “But the protection is not complete.” Again, the author provides no direct evidence other than a quote from Stephen Griffen, a virologist at University of Leeds School of Medicine. The readers are left wondering where is the proof that reinfections with Ba.2 after prior infection with Ba.1 are rare. The quote from Griffen also leads us hanging as to whether this is informed judgement based on actual study results or simply the opinion of the virologist.
Finally for some last results, the author mentions that despite the surge brought on by Ba.1 for the last few months that COVID cases in this country have dropped by 35% in recent weeks, even as BA.2 has risen to become the dominant strain of Sars-CoV-2. Also he notes that parts of the United States, including some of the northeastern states, are seeing an uptick in SARS-CoV-2 infections. Time will tell if this translates to another surge in COVID-19 in the United States, which as he points out will depend upon other factors such as: vaccine and booster coverage, public health countermeasures and the average age of the population. Of course these are important to point out, but what is also very important is the discussion and proper presentation of results and not just mere facts or opinions.
COVID-19, Omicron, Ba.1, Ba.2
Schmidt, Charles (April 4, 2022) “What We Know about Omicron’s BA.2 Variant So Far”. Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-we-know-about-omicrons-ba-2-variant-so-far1/