The Centre on Monday rejected reports that claimed the new Omicron sub-variant BA.5 is fatal to human brains. The government said this claim was misleading. "The relevance to humans has not been proven by the study referred to in the news report," it said.
Last week, Hong Kong-based English daily South China Morning Post published a report saying researchers from Australia and France found BA.5 caused much more severe damage to mouse brains and cultured human brain tissues than the previous BA.1 subvariant, leading to brain inflammation, weight loss, and death.
The BA.5 and BF.7 variants are believed to be behind the massive Covid surge in China.
"Compared with BA. 1, we found that a BA.5 isolate displayed increased pathogenicity in K18-hACE2 mice with rapid weight loss, brain infection and encephalitis, and mortality," the study said, adding that BA.5 productively infected human brain organoids significantly better than BA.1.
However, Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the researchers showed that all the mice died from brain infections of BA. 5, which is very different from human infections.
Jin said it was widely accepted that BA.5 did not cause more brain abnormalities in humans than previous Covid sub-variants. He also said the World Health Organization has said the pathogenicity of Omicron variants has not increased.
Today, the government also said the relevance to humans has not been proven by the study cited in the reports.
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