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Results suggest that Covid-19 could become a more lethal strain in the future.

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An SA lab study that took place over six months and used Covid-19 samples from a person with a weakened immune system showed that the virus changed to become more dangerous. This suggests that a new variant could make people sicker than the most common Omicron strain.

The study was done by the same lab that was going to test the Omicron strain against vaccines for the first time last year. The lab used samples from an HIV-positive person. During the first few weeks, the virus caused the same number of cells to fuse together and die as the Omicron BA.1 strain, but as it changed, those numbers went up until they were the same as the first version of Covid-19 found in Wuhan, China.

The study, which was led by Alex Sigal at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, shows that the Covid-19 pathogen could continue to change, and a new variant may cause more severe illness and death than the relatively mild Omicron strain. The study hasn’t been checked by other experts yet, and it’s only based on lab work done on samples from one person.

Sigal and other scientists have thought in the past that variants like Beta and Omicron, which were both first found in Southern Africa, may have come about in people with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV. They say that because it takes these people so long to get rid of the disease, it has time to change and get better at hiding from antibodies.

The researchers said in their findings, which came out on November 24, that the study “may show that SARS-CoV-2 evolution in long-term infection does not have to lead to attenuation.” “It could mean that a future variant could be more dangerous than the Omicron strains that are currently in circulation.”

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