A new study suggests that the omicron COVID-19 variant is three times more likely to cause reinfection compared to the delta variant.

The study — published ahead of peer review Thursday on medRxiv — studied 2.8 million positive COVID-19 samples in South Africa with about 35,670 suspected of reinfections.

  • The researchers said they found the omicron variant had a “substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection,” according to The Washington Post.
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Scientists said the potential for increased reinfection might be a reason why the virus has been spreading so quickly, per The Washington Post.

Dr. Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told NPR that the omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant, which is significant since the delta variant dominated the world.

  • “Everyone is afraid that omicron will be significantly more transmissible than delta. Upon first impression, it looks like it could be,” he said. “But that could be totally wrong. Right now, nobody knows. The problem is that our data is very limited.”

Researchers in South Africa first announced the discovery of the coronavirus variant over Thanksgiving weekend, as I wrote for the Deseret News. The variant reportedly has dozens of mutations but it’s unclear if the variant will cause severe symptoms among fully vaccinated people.