In the UK, Denmark, India, Sweden and other countries, a new, even more contagious sub-variant of “omicron” is rapidly spreading. The DW edition tells everything that is known about him today.
Already the first omicron BA.1 variant turned out to be much more infectious than all other early strains of coronavirus. Now there is BA.2, which in the first ten days of January infected at least 400 people in the UK. And a subspecies has already been discovered in more than forty countries.
Two new cases of coronavirus with the Omicron 2 mutation have also been confirmed in Greece, Crete. One of them is with a carrier with a history of travel, the other infected person did not go anywhere. It appears that while the new subspecies is not too aggressive and does not cause more serious illness or increase the risk of hospitalization. Vaccines against BA.2 are as effective as against all other strains of Covid-19, reports APE-MPE, citing data from the British Health Insurance Service. However, BA.2 is more contagious than the original Omicron and could therefore prolong the pandemic, Reuters and the New York Times say, citing scientists’ reports and quoting Imperial College virologist Dr. Thomas Peacock:
“It is possible that there will be a higher incidence in places where the pandemic has not yet reached its peak, and a slowdown in the downward trend in areas that have already passed the Omicron peak.”
The “record holder” for infections with a new subspecies is Denmark – according to PANGO Lineages, 79% of all new infections are BA.2. In second place is the UK (6%), followed by India (5%), Sweden (2%) and Singapore (2%). But it should be borne in mind that the identification of this sub-variant of coronavirus largely depends on the ability of national laboratories to sequence PCR test samples, notes D.W.
Mira Chand of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) calls the new subspecies BA.2 “a variant under surveillance”:
“The nature of viruses is such that they multiply and mutate in the process. Therefore, we can expect that we will continue to deal with more and more new variants until the pandemic is over. There is not enough evidence yet to say that VA. 2 causes a more severe course of the disease than BA.1.”.
In medical laboratories, a selective analysis of the DNA of viruses is carried out and it is possible to identify mutations and assess how dangerous they are. But in the case of sub-option BA.2, this process has not yet been completed, the expert notes.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the new option shows how important vaccination remains:
“I urge everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones and get booster shots now.”
French epidemiologist Antoine Flahaud told AFP:
“What surprised us was the speed with which this sub-variant, which is widespread in Asia, has taken over Denmark.”
French Minister of Health Olivier Véran reports on the scientists’ preliminary findings that BA.2 is no more aggressive than BA.1:
“At the moment, we know that the BA.2 variant has about the same characteristics that we know from the omicron variant.”
However, there is concern that crossing both omicron variants with Delta may result in a more dangerous virus. This is warned by Christian Drosten, head of the department of virology at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin. He explains that “omicron” has certain mutations in spike proteins, with the help of which it is able to more easily overcome the immune defenses of the human body. The recombination of both variants is especially dangerous, when the spike proteins of the “omicron” will make it possible to overcome the body’s defenses, and the virus will contain the genome of a dangerous delta. As a result, the strong characteristics of both options are able to combine. This, the virologist says, has already happened, and “this is what should be feared at the moment.”
Recently, a scientist from Cyprus reported the discovery of a virus that he believes contains a recombination of both mutations. However, information about the “deltacron” has not yet been officially confirmed.