Audio Interview

How is Omicron different?

Published on January 10, 2022   14 min

Other Talks in the Series: Interviews on Covid-19

Interviewer: Professor Thomson, thank you so much for taking the time to record this update interview on the novel findings on the Omicron variants. The first question is based on the data your group has just published. What are the new antigenic and biological properties that have emerged from this study on the Omicron variant? Prof. Thomson: Thanks very much for letting me come to discuss this again, I think the last time we left it at a point where we'd found that there was just this stunning number of mutations in the spike protein with the Omicron variants, and we needed to learn a lot more about what that meant in terms of the biological phenotype of the virus. So we wanted to look at two aspects of virus biology, the first being immunisation and we did that in two ways by looking at vaccine effectiveness and also at neutralisation. Then secondly, alongside Joe Grove at the MRC Centre for Virus Research, we looked at some of the properties of virus entry which have quite fundamentally changed with the Omicron variants, and I can go on and describe that a bit further. The first pieces of work that we did were to look at neutralisation values, and we, and many others, now have shown that neutralisation following two doses of vaccine is really markedly reduced with the Omicron variant, which is pretty concerning and it was what we were worried about when we saw the number of changes within the receptor binding domain. There are 15 changes in that area, but we were more pleasantly surprised to see that three doses of vaccine really makes a huge difference to neutralisation. Then we went on to look at one of the largest health boards in the UK and the largest health board in Scotland,