Scientists worry about super-infectious Omicron mutation BA.2.75

BILLIONhe quickly changed the coronavirus gave birth to another super-infectious mutant Omicron that worried scientists when it appeared in India and appeared in many other countries, including the United States.

The variant — called BA.2.75 — could potentially spread quickly and confer immunity from vaccines and previous infections, the scientists say. It is unclear whether it can cause more severe disease than other Omicron variants, including the globally known BA.5.

“It’s too early for us to draw too many conclusions,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “But it seems that, especially in India, transmission rates are showing an exponential increase.” Whether it will compete with BA.5 has yet to be determined, he said.

Read more: What to know about the newest, most infectious Omicron subspecies

However, the fact that it has been detected in many parts of the world even with lower levels of virus surveillance “is an early sign that it is spreading,” said Shishi Luo, head of the infectious diseases department. infection by Helix, a company that provides virus sequencing services, said the information to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lipi Thukral, a scientist at the Scientific and Industrial Research Council-Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research in New Delhi, said: “It has also been detected in about 10 other countries, including Australia, Germany and Germany. , United Kingdom and Canada. Two cases were recently identified on the West Coast of the United States, and Helix identified a third case in the United States last week.

Of concern to fuel experts is a large number of mutations that separate this new variant from its Omicron predecessors. Some mutations are located in regions associated with the mutant protein, Binnicker said, and could allow the virus to bind to cells more efficiently.

A boy is vaccinated against COVID-19 at a private vaccination center in Gauhati, India on April 10, 2022.

Anupam Nath / AP

Another concern is that genetic edits could make it easier for the virus to overcome past antibodies — protective proteins made by the body in response to a vaccine or an infection from a virus. previous body.

But experts say vaccines and boosters are still the best protection against COVID-19. In the fall, it is likely that the United States will see updated vaccine formulations developed to target more recent omicron strains.

“Some people might say, ‘Well, vaccinations and boosters don’t stop people from getting infected.’ And, yes, it’s true,” he said. “But what we have seen is that the rates of people being hospitalized and dying have dropped dramatically. As more and more people are immunized, boosted, or naturally infected, we’re starting to see baseline levels of immunity around the world increase.”

Read more: Now that BA.5 is dominating, stopping will be hard

It could take weeks to see if the latest Omicron mutant could influence the trajectory of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Dr Gagandeep Kang, who studies virology at the Christian Medical College of India in Vellore, said growing concern about the variant underscores the need for efforts. A more sustainable way to track and trace the virus combines genetic efforts with factual information about who is sick and how bad it is. “It is important that surveillance is not a beginner strategy,” she said.

Luo said BA.2.75 is another reminder that the coronavirus is constantly evolving — and spreading.

“We want to return to our pre-pandemic life, but we still need to be careful,” she said. “We need to accept that we are now living with a higher level of risk than we used to be.”

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