May 25, 2024

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WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?

WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?


WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?

In this week’s update of the World Health Organization’s tracking of COVID-19 virus variants, an unusual signal has quickly captured global attention – a variant known as BA.2.86 was included in the “Variants Under Monitoring” (VUMs) list with only three sequencing samples.


WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?


Compared to recent variants like EG.5, which rapidly spread in China and the United States, EG.5 was first detected on February 17th this year and only entered the “Variants Under Monitoring” list on July 19th, later being upgraded to “Variants of Interest” (VOIs) with only EG.5, XBB.1.5, and XBB.1.16 currently listed.

There are currently no variants listed as “Variants of Concern” (VOCs).


The World Health Organization has drawn significant attention to the BA.2.86 variant, citing the sheer number of mutations it carries.

What complicates matters is that, although BA.2.86 has only been sporadically identified in Denmark, the UK, Israel, and the United States according to public reports, its geographical distribution suggests international transmission.


WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?



Denmark’s State Serum Institute noted that the three BA.2.86 variants discovered in the country were in different regions and appeared unrelated.

Senior researcher Morten Rasmussen stated that such extensive mutations (over 30) are uncommon for a new coronavirus. The last time we saw a similar level of change was when the Omicron variant first emerged.

However, as an authoritative medical institution, the State Serum Institute emphasized that it is currently unclear how these mutations may impact the virus’s transmissibility and pathogenicity and is actively conducting antibody testing.


The U.S. CDC reported the significant variant in Michigan on Thursday but emphasized that there are no changes in public health recommendations at this time.

Thanks to the research experience accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few years, scientists have already conducted initial analyses of this virus.


A study released by evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on Thursday revealed that BA.2.86 has 34 mutations in the spike protein compared to BA.2 and 36 mutations compared to XBB.1.5. In simpler terms, the level of mutations in BA.2.86, compared to BA.2 and XBB.1.5, is roughly equivalent to the difference between the original Omicron variant and the ancestral strain.


WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?

(Source: Danish National Serum Institute)


Another reason the medical community is concerned about this new variant is that as we approach the fall and winter of 2023, vaccination of individuals with compromised immune systems will become critical.

The United States has been primarily promoting vaccines targeting the XBB variant this year, and recent data from Moderna shows that the antibodies produced by the XBB.1.5 vaccine can effectively neutralize the EG.5 variant. However, considering the mutations, upcoming vaccines may have reduced efficacy against BA.2.86.


Bloom also offered reassurance, noting that vaccination and prior infection can elicit broader immune responses that can provide some protection against severe illness even when faced with highly mutated variants.


Therefore, despite the spread of highly mutated variants like BA.2.86, our situation is much better than it was in 2020 and 2021, as most people now have some level of immunity against the COVID-19 virus.


WHO concerned: What is the BA.2.86 Variant of COVID-19?

(source:internet, reference only)

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Important Note: The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.