Delta six times more viral load than Alpha: UVM study

Graduate student Hannah Despres (right) and Assistant Professor Emily Bruce, Ph.D., conduct COVID-19 variant research in UVM’s Stafford B. (Photo: UVM Larner College of Medicine).

by Jennifer Nachbur, UVM

Understanding how Covid -19 variants function allows public health leaders to develop more effective prevention strategies. In a newly-published study, a team of University of Vermont and University of Washington scientists discovered that – based on clinical samples from infected individuals – the Delta variant had a higher infectivity than the Alpha variant of COVID-19.

Senior author Emily Bruce, Ph.D., a University of Vermont assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and colleagues from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, sought to determine “if the ratio between viral RNA and infectious virus levels was changing given the high levels of Delta transmission we saw over the summer,” says Bruce.

The group was surprised by their findings.

“What we saw was that people infected with Delta had almost six times more virus in their nasal swab samples than people infected with Alpha for the same amount of RNA,” says first author and UVM graduate student Hannah Despres.

For this study, the team measured a set of 162 clinical samples containing SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Delta, and Epsilon variants, collected in identical swab kits from outpatient test sites and processed soon after collection. The researchers measured the amount of viral RNA and the infectious viral titers for each sample, and showed that virus produced from people infected with Delta was six times more infectious than Alpha for the same ‘viral load’ of RNA.

Gaining a better understanding of the biological traits of the variants allows scientists to more quickly and accurately assess new variants for infectiousness and severity of disease, explains Despres.

“This research is of immediate and practical importance for public health officials,” says Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health and health policy at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine. “More infectious variants warrant increased prevention measures and messaging, such as the need for highly-effective booster shots, indoor masking, and testing. Having specific knowledge about current and future variants increases our ability to anticipate and respond, best protecting patients and the public.”

“We hope to continue this work and start unpacking how this increased infectivity is happening on a mechanistic level, and also to investigate how much this may play a role in the infectivity of other SARS-CoV-2 variants,” says Bruce, whose team is already examining characteristics of the Omicron variant.

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4 replies »

  1. So what exactly are they testing? They have an isolated sample of the original Wu-Flu to compare what they have there in the UVM lab? They have isolated samples of the variants? Did the lab in Wuhan, the CDC, Fauci, NIH, WHO give them the original strain? Science nonsense. Who funds UVM? Who is writing the grants and giving the money to this research facility? Rockefeller medicine and Dartmouth too. The medical field is no longer to be trusted – particularly any funded by the elites.

  2. Serious question here. Supposedly, the original virus has not been isolated or identified from some reports. If it has and these new strains have also been identified, why are there no virus strains in the so called vaccines? Do these PCR tests differentiate between the various new off shoots of the original? Real vaccines have dead strand of the virus. If these are so easily recognized in the nostrils, why hasn’t a conventional vaccine been developed?

  3. It’s a load of……

    If they actually had the real virus they could release an old fashioned flu shor.

    Nah…..that wouldn’t make Fauci any money.

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