Japanese Study Finds That The Omicron Variant Has Higher Environmental Stability Compared To All Other SARS-CoV-2 Variants
: A new study by researchers from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine-Japan has found that the omicron variant has higher environmental stability compared to all other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The study team analyzed the differences in viral environmental stability between the SARS-CoV-2 Wuhan strain and all variants of concern (VOCs). On plastic and skin surfaces, Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants exhibited more than two-fold longer survival than the Wuhan strain and maintained infectivity for more than 16 h on skin surfaces. The high environmental stability of these VOCs could increase the risk of contact transmission and contribute to their spread.
However, when compared to all other new variants such as the Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma variants, the Omicron exhibited longer survival time on plastic and skin surfaces.
The study findings were published on a preprint server and are currently being peer reviewed. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.18.476607v1
The study compared the SARS-CoV-2 Wuhan strain and variants of concern (VOCs) - Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants for their survivability and infectivity.
Utilizing constructed human skin models, and plastic substrates, the study team evaluated the environmental stability of the variants.
Comprehending the pathogenesis of the SARS-CoV-2 and its stability in the environment is critical in mitigating the ongoing pandemic that has caused debilitating damages globally.
Since the start of the pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 ancestral virus has exhibited high transmissibility. With the emergence of many variants, the virus has gained higher transmissibility as evidenced by the number of infection cases despite vaccines and lockdowns the world over.
Numerous factors are attributed to the increased infectivity and transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2, such as increased viral load shed from infected individuals, prolonged viral shedding period, decrease in the minimum viral load required to establish infection, changes in the infection target site, and increased environmental stability.
To date however, no research has ever been conducted that directly compares the stability of the ancestral virus and its variants of concern in detail and reports their environmental stability.
Past studies have reported that the Alpha (Pango lineage: B.1.1.7) and Beta (Pango lineage: B.1.351) have similar stability. https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(21)00219-X/fulltext
There were some studies that compared the stability of the SARS-CoV-2 with that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) and the influenza virus.
The current study precisely evaluated the differences in viral stability of the Wuhan strain (Pango lineage: A) and all the VOCs, including the Omicron (Pango lineage: B.1.1.529) and Delta (Pango lineage: B.1.617.2) variant.
The Omicron Research
team also analyzed the disinfection efficacy between the Wuhan strain and all VOCs.
All SARS-CoV-2 viruses ( Wuhan strain (Pango lineage: A, hCoV-19/Japan/TY/WK-521/2019), Alpha variant (Pango lineage: B.1.1.7, hCoV-19/Japan/QK002/2020), Beta variant (Pango lineage: B.1.351, hCoV-19/Japan/TY8-612/2021), Gamma variant (Pango lineage: P.1, hCoV-19/Japan/TY7-501/2021), Delta variant (Pango lineage: B.1.617.2, hCoV-19/Japan/TY11-927/2021), and Omicron variant (Pango lineage: B.1.1.529, hCoV-19/Japan/TY38-873/2021)) in the study were provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (Tokyo, Japan).
The study team used the VeroE6/TMPRSS2 cells for culturing the viruses.
The research team evaluated the virus stability on plastic (polystyrene plate) and human skin surfaces. Utilizing the human skin collected from forensic autopsy specimens, the study team developed an ex vivo model.
Upon applying the various SARS-CoV-2 virus variants on the plastic/skin surface, the study team tested for the survivability of the virus. They evaluated the stability of different viruses on the surface of the human skin model, and also found the effectiveness of different disinfectants against viruses on the human skin. The alcohol-based disinfectants, ethanol, and isopropanol were used in the study.
The study team defined the detection limit for the titer of the virus remaining on the surface to be 100.5 TCID50, and the survival time as the time until the virus on the surface was no longer detected.
The study findings showed that on the plastic surface, the survival times of the Wuhan strain, Alpha variant, Beta variant, Gamma variant, Delta variant, and Omicron variant was 56.0 h, 191.3 h, 156.6 h, 59.3 h, 114.0 h, and 193.5 h, respectively.
However, on the human skin surface, they analyzed the survival times of the Wuhan strain, Alpha variant, Beta variant, Gamma variant, Delta variant, and Omicron variant to be 8.6 h, 19.6 h, 19.1 h, 11.0 h, 16.8 h, and 21.1 h, respectively; with the Omicron variant having the longest survival time. The researchers reported that the half-life values had the same tendency as the survival time.
Most commonly used disinfectants were effective against all the viruses within 15s.
However, the VOCs were slightly more resistant than the Wuhan strain.
Also, on human skin, an ex vivo evaluation showed complete inactivation of all the viruses with exposure to 35% ethanol within 15s.
Hence the study team highly recommends the current protocol of hand hygiene practices to continue for infection control as advised by the World Health Organization.
The study findings showed that on plastic and skin surfaces, the VOCs exhibited more than two-fold longer survival times than those of the Wuhan strain and remained infective on the skin surfaces for more than 16h.
However, the study does not address the reasons for the observed higher environmental stability of the variants.
The study team suggests that further research using recombinant viruses may identify the factors behind this. Importantly, the evaluated survival time and the half-life in this study are dependent on the external environment and the composition of the body fluid.
It was noted that in this study, the virus was ultra-centrifuged and dispersed in PBS (phosphate buffer saline) solvent. Therefore, it is subject to change according to the number of variables in the environment.
Furthermore, the relationship between the virus load on the surface and the risk of transmission is unclear.
Hence, it might be reasonable to interpret the value of survival time in this study as a reference value,” observed the researchers in the paper.
The data on the stability of the virus and its variants responsible for the ongoing pandemic is crucial for infection control and mitigation.
This research investigated the environmental stability of the SARS-CoV-2 and its variants of concern. It showed that the Omicron variant has the highest environmental stability among VOCs; suggestive of how Omicron has rapidly replaced the Delta variant and ferociously spread across the globe.
These study findings will contribute greatly to elucidating the mechanism of VOC spread with the addition of genetic analysis, the study team concludes.
For the latest Omicron Research
, keep on logging to Thailand Medical News.