Why is omicron more infectious but less severe? What we know so far

The omicron variant infects cells in a different way, is present in higher levels in saliva and seems more likely to cause asymptomatic infections – all findings that could help explain why omicron is spreading so rapidly but resulting in a lower proportion of hospitalisations and deaths

Health 6 January 2022

By Michael Le Page

Testing for covid-19 in Lisbon, Portugal, in December

Testing for covid-19 in Lisbon, Portugal, in December 2021

PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images

Scientific studies are beginning to shed light on why omicron behaves so differently from other coronavirus variants. Its reduced severity could be due to a change in how it fuses with our cells, while higher levels of the virus and an increased proportion of asymptomatic cases may help explain how it spreads so quickly.

The global number of confirmed covid-19 cases is currently hitting record levels as omicron spreads. But while this variant which has around 50 mutations compared with the …

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