Signals of Significantly Increased Vaccine Breakthrough, Decreased Hospitalization Rates, and Less Severe Disease in Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 Caused by the Omicron Variant of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Houston, Texas

Paul Christensen, Randall J. Olsen, S. Wesley Long, Richard Snehal, James J. Davis, Matthew Ojeda Saavedra, Kristina Reppond, Madison N. Shyer, Jessica Cambric, Ryan Gadd, Rashi M. Thakur, Akanksha Batajoo, Regan Mangham, Sindy Pena, Trina Trinh, Jacob C. Kinskey, Guy Williams, Robert Olson, Jimmy Gollihar, James M. Musser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Genetic variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) continue to dramatically alter the landscape of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The recently described variant of concern designated Omicron (B.1.1.529) has rapidly spread worldwide and is now responsible for the majority of COVID-19 cases in many countries. Because Omicron was recognized recently, many knowledge gaps exist about its epidemiology, clinical severity, and disease course. A genome sequencing study of SARS-CoV-2 in the Houston Methodist health care system identified 4468 symptomatic patients with infections caused by Omicron from late November 2021 through January 5, 2022. Omicron rapidly increased in only 3 weeks to cause 90% of all new COVID-19 cases, and at the end of the study period caused 98% of new cases. Compared with patients infected with either Alpha or Delta variants in our health care system, Omicron patients were significantly younger, had significantly increased vaccine breakthrough rates, and were significantly less likely to be hospitalized. Omicron patients required less intense respiratory support and had a shorter length of hospital stay, consistent with on average decreased disease severity. Two patients with Omicron stealth sublineage BA.2 also were identified. The data document the unusually rapid spread and increased occurrence of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant in metropolitan Houston, Texas, and address the lack of information about disease character among US patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-652
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Volume192
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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