The latest Omicron variants of Covid could be protective against serious influenza infection, a leading testing expert says.
The milder variants have now made Covid-19 less dangerous than the flu, though there is still the risk of developing long Covid.
Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, says: “Finally, there may be a silver lining to the pandemic cloud. There’s strong evidence that catching the latest Omicron variants of Covid can protect you from serious influenza. However, that does not apply to previous Covid variants such as Delta.”
Research from Professor Martin Michaelis and teams from the University of Kent and from Germany show a direct link between catching the latest Omicron variants of Covid-19 and gaining protection against flu.
It seems a response from the body caused by fighting the Omicron variant also stops the influenza virus from replicating.
The new study ‘Omicron inhibits influenza A virus infection’ shows that Omicron BA.1 and BA.5 (currently the commonest sub-variant) induces a pronounced interferon response that suppresses influenza A virus replication. Influenza Type A is, by far, the most common cause of flu in humans.
“The study makes the same connection as London Medical Laboratory’s own observations that, while influenza-like illnesses surged during the Delta wave in England, their spread rapidly declined upon the emergence of Omicron,” Fivelman added.
The Financial Times reported in March this year that the combination of high levels of immunity and the reduced severity of the Omicron variant has rendered Covid-19 less lethal than influenza for most people in England.
However, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) research shows that Omicron is just as likely as previous Covid variants to lead to cases of long Covid, with 34% of all long Covid cases having developed during the Omicron-era.