New research hints at why omicron may spread faster, cause less severe illness 

The omicron coronavirus variant infects and multiplies 70 times faster in the human bronchus than delta and the original strain, according to preliminary findings from researchers at the University of Hong Kong in China. 

This finding may explain why the strain appears to be more transmissible, researchers said.

The early findings are based on an analysis of respiratory tract tissues, according to a Dec. 15 news release. The research team found that while omicron replicated about 70 times faster in the human bronchus, it was less efficient — about 10 times lower — at replicating in human lung tissue compared to the original coronavirus strain. The suggestion that omicron slows down once it reaches the lungs may explain why cases linked to the strain appear to be less severe, researchers said. 

The World Health Organization on Dec. 14 warned omicron is spreading faster than any other COVID-19 variant and preliminary findings from researchers in South Africa, where omicron was first detected, suggest the variant spreads more than twice as fast as delta, currently the dominant strain in the U.S.

To read more about recent omicron updates, click here.


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