Keep an eye on ‘subspecies’ of Omicron, beware of rapid outbreak in Asia

Keep an eye on ‘subspecies’ of Omicron, beware of rapid outbreak in Asia

Date 23 Jan 2022 time 11:14

Scientists are monitoring the COVID-19 virus A recently discovered subspecies to determine how disease emergence will affect the spread of future pandemics.

The initial omikron strain has emerged as the dominant viral strain in recent months. But British health authorities have identified hundreds of cases of the latest version of the BA.2 subspecies, while international data indicate it can spread relatively quickly.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says more than 400 cases have been found in the UK in the first 10 days of this month and has identified the latest strain in 40 other countries, representing a fraction of the total. The most recent cases in some countries include India, Denmark and Sweden.

The UKHSA said on Friday it had designated the BA.2 subspecies as a strain under investigation (VUI) due to the increasing number of infections cases. Although in the UK the BA.1 strain is still the dominant strain.

Responsible agencies emphasize that “There remains uncertainty about the importance of viral genome alterations,” requiring surveillance. in the same way Cases in the past few days have seen a sharp increase in the incidence of BA.2. especially in India and Denmark.

“What surprised us was how quickly this subspecies which spread to a great extent in Asia has taken over Denmark,” French epidemiologist Antoine Flaholt told AFP.

Scientists have to assess the virus causing the worst global health crisis in a century. How does it continue to evolve and mutate? Its latest strain does not contain the specific mutation used to track and compare BA.1 with Delta, a previously dominant strain.

BA.2 is not yet defined as a strain of concern. But Flaholt said countries Must be alert to the latest developments as scientists increase surveillance.

“(France) expects a significant increase in infections in mid-January. That it didn’t happen and maybe that’s because of this subspecies. which appears to be highly contagious but not as severe as BA.1

“What we are interested in is if this These (subspecies) have different characteristics” from BA.1 in terms of contact and severity. France’s public health agency said on Friday.

until now Only a few cases of BA.2 occurred in France. But the country is following developments as it spreads across the UK.

Flaholt, Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva. said the important thing was not to panic, but to be “cautious” because “for now We have a feeling that the (BA.2 case) severity is comparable to the “classic” Omikron case.

“But many questions remain unanswered” and the properties of this new species need to be examined.

Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College in London, tweeted: “Very early observations from India and Denmark indicated that there was no significant difference in severity compared to BA.1.”

Peacock emphasized that “We don’t currently have solid data … how much BA.2 can infect may be more than BA.1, however, we can speculate/observe early on.”

He added, “It is possible that there is little difference in vaccine efficacy against BA.1 and BA.2. I’m not sure BA.2 will have a huge impact on the current omikron wave of the pandemic.

“Many countries are near or even past the peak of the BA.1 wave. I would be very surprised if BA.2 would cause a second wave at this point, even if it had a slightly higher contagion. This change is not a change of Delta-Omicron for sure, but it’s a replacement. It tends to be slower and more thorough,” he predicted.

French Health Minister Omivier Verang said on Thursday that BA.2 was not likely to be a game changer. due to different species appear at this time “Pretty normal”, but he said he would not be sure yet.

“What we know now is that (BA.2) is more or less consistent with the features we know about omikron.”

Photo by Rodrigo BUENDIA / AFP

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