May 21, 2024

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COVID BA.2.86 Infections: Why Scientists Are Concerned Despite Limited Cases

COVID BA.2.86 Infections: Why Scientists Are Concerned Despite Limited Cases



COVID BA.2.86 Infections: Why Scientists Are Concerned Despite Limited Cases.

In recent times, scientists from around the world have been focusing on a new variant of the COVID-19 virus called Omicron BA.2.86, also known as Pirola.

While it has been detected in only a handful of individuals, scientists are treating it as a significant threat due to its presence in various corners of the world.

What’s even more concerning is that BA.2.86 boasts a record number of mutations, distinguishing it from previous variants.

 

In contrast to the dominant Omicron BA.2 variant that prevailed in early 2022, BA.2.86 has accumulated over 30 mutations, suggesting it may have an increased ability to evade current vaccines and antibody protections. Even upcoming booster shots might offer limited defense against it.

 

COVID BA.2.86 Infections: Why Scientists Are Concerned Despite Limited Cases

 

 

Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiology expert and scientific advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), notes that BA.2.86 is entirely distinct from earlier variants, and it remains unclear whether this mutation will result in different or more severe symptoms.

 

Cases linked to BA.2.86 have been reported in several countries, including Portugal, Denmark, South Africa, the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom, some involving individuals who haven’t recently traveled, indicating community transmission.

The CDC has also reported the presence of BA.2.86 in wastewater in the United States, Switzerland, and Thailand.

 

It’s currently unknown how contagious this strain is and whether it will spread widely or fade away like many other variants. Another crucial question is whether it will lead to more severe illness.

 

Scientists believe that even with such a highly mutated virus, treatments like Paxlovid for COVID-19 should remain effective as they can effectively block the replication of the virus.

The CDC stated last week that commonly used rapid antigen tests should also be able to detect this new variant.

 

In a risk assessment released on August 23rd, the CDC mentioned that scientists are evaluating the efficacy of new vaccines expected to be launched in September.

Current assessments suggest that these new vaccines should still be effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization.

 

Virologist Jesse Bloom from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggests that widespread transmission likely has already occurred, as nearly identical virus samples have been detected in different countries. He adds, “Of course, BA.2.86 may have spread to more places than have been identified so far because monitoring is incomplete.”

 

Bloom points out that BA.2.86 bears some resemblance to the original Omicron variant, which emerged suddenly in the winter of 2021, causing a surge in global infections. The difference lies in the fact that almost everyone had some level of immunity due to previous infections or vaccination.

 

Scientists have no definitive origin for BA.2.86, but given the high number of mutations it carries, they speculate that it may have evolved over several months in an individual with a compromised immune system and chronic infection.

 

Professor T. Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph in Canada suggests, “It might have been evolving for a while, and it’s currently unclear if it will lead to widespread infections like the original Omicron did.” As surveillance efforts weaken, new variants may silently exist in a region without notice.

 

Epidemiology professor Justin Lessler from the University of North Carolina emphasizes that even if BA.2.86 doesn’t spread widely, it serves as a vital reminder that different strains can emerge unexpectedly from anywhere.

 

 

 

 

COVID BA.2.86 Infections: Why Scientists Are Concerned Despite Limited Cases

(source:internet, reference only)


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