Study shows why Omicron patients are more vulnerable to influenza
German researchers have discovered why so many people who contract Covid-19 – especially the Omicron variant – also catch the influenza (flu) virus.
The discovery came from a study on Interferon type I (IFN-I), an antiviral protein that forms part of the body’s immune defences, according to Dr Anan Jongkaewwattana, who heads the NSTDA's Veterinary Health Innovation and Management Research Group. With enough of this powerful antiviral protein, the body can prevent all kinds of viruses from entering deep into the system and making us sick.
Researchers used to believe that if the body was already infected with one virus, it would produce enough IFN-I to prevent infection by other viruses, reducing the chance of simultaneous infection by Covid-19 and influenza.
However, the data from this latest study found that Omicron has the power to inhibit production of IFN-I, meaning cells it infects produces four times less IFN-I than usual.
Also, Omicron itself is much more resistant to IFN-I than other Covid-19 variants.
Eradicating the original Wuhan variant from the body normally requires 50 units of IFN-I. Eradicating Delta requires up to 100 units. But Omicron requires 500 or more units of IFN-I before it is eliminated from the body.
This data explains why Omicron patients are more vulnerable to flu infections, since their immune systems are weaker because they use more of the antiviral IFN-I to fight off the Covid-19 variant.