The UK will be taking a closer look at a subtype of omicron called BA.2, which may be even more contagious.
The British Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) classified the variant as “surveilled”. Typically, variants that eventually become “worrisome” are noted first. According to the UKHSA, since the beginning of the year, there have been over 400 cases of BA.2 in the UK.
Preliminary analyzes suggest that the subvariant may circulate even more readily than the omicron known as BA.1. However, further investigation is needed.
“It is in the nature of the virus to evolve and mutate, so it can be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge,” explains Meera Chand, UKHSA’s director of events.
“Our ongoing genomic surveillance allows us to detect them and assess whether they are significant,” he says.
Presence in about 40 countries
Identified on 6 December in the UK, it is still unclear where the version first appeared. Cases have already been reported in about 40 countries including India, Sweden and Singapore. However, most were recorded in Denmark, where more than 6,400 cases of BA.2 have been identified.
French epidemiologist Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP: “What makes us wonder is how quickly this subvariant, widespread in Asia, has taken up residence in Denmark.”
In Denmark, BA.2 spread rapidly: it accounted for 20% of all COVID-19 cases in the last week of 2021, rising to 45% in the second week of 2022.
France’s public health agency said what matters at this time is whether this subvariant has characteristics different from BA.1 in terms of infection and severity.
Alert but don’t panic
For Flahault, the watchword is not panic, but “vigilance.” According to him, for the time being, there has been a perception that cases of BA.2 have a higher severity than the classic micron version.
“But there are many questions on the table”, he thinks, warning of the need to monitor the new version’s merits.
Anders Fomsgaard, a researcher at Denmark’s SSI, the body responsible for tackling infectious diseases in the country, said there was still no good explanation for the subvariant’s rapid advance, adding that he was concerned but not concerned. .
“It could be that it is more resistant to the immunity of the population, which allows it to infect more. We still don’t know,” he told Danish broadcaster TV2.
According to FomsGuard, there is a possibility that people infected with BA.1 may not be immune to BA.2. “In such a situation we should be prepared for that. And so, in fact, we may see two peaks of this pandemic.”
A preliminary analysis by the SSI in Denmark showed no difference in hospitalization for BA.2 compared to BA.
efficacy of vaccines
Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said the latest subvariant should not call into question the effectiveness of existing vaccines.
“Very early observations in India and Denmark suggest no dramatic difference in severity compared to BA.1,” he wrote on Twitter.
“There is likely to be a slight difference in vaccine effectiveness against BA.1 and BA.2. Personally, I’m not sure the BA.2 pandemic will have a substantial impact on the current wave of omni.”
“Many countries are near or even beyond the peak of BA.1 waves. I would be very surprised if BA.2 causes a second wave at this point. Even with slightly higher transmittance, this delta Absolutely no change from for Omicron,” he explained.
The WHO has classified coronavirus variants into three categories: those of concern, those of concern, and those under surveillance. Omicron is kind of interested.
As of December, the 17 types that the WHO had observed since the start of the pandemic proved to be short-lived or less dangerous, and are no longer under special surveillance.
LE (AFP, Reuters, OTS)