Scientists are keeping an eye on a recently discovered subvariant of the COVID 19 virus to find out how its emergence could affect the pandemic going forward.
The initial omicron variant has become the dominant virus strain in recent months, but British health authorities have identified hundreds of cases of the latest version, dubbed BA. The U.K. Health Security Agency UKHSA identified more than 400 cases in Britain in the first ten days of the month, and has indicated that the latest variant has been detected in some 40 other countries, accounting for a majority of the latest cases in some countries including India, Denmark and Sweden.
The BA was designated by the UKHSA on Friday. As a variant under the investigation VUI, cases of it were on the increase even if the BA in Britain. The authority underlined that there was still uncertainty around the significance of changes to the viral genome, which required surveillance as cases in recent days showed a sharp rise in BA. In India and Denmark there are 2 incidences of this type of disease.
The speed with which this subvariant has taken hold in Denmark is something that surprised us, French epidemiologist Antoine Flahault said.
Scientists must assess how the virus, which engendered the worst global health crisis in a century, continues to evolve and mutate. Its latest incarnation does not have the specific mutation used to track and compare BA. The previously dominant strain was 1 against delta.
Flahault said countries have to be alert to the latest developments as scientists ramp up surveillance. 2 has yet to be designated as a variant of concern.
France expected to see a spike in contaminations in mid-January. It didn't happen and perhaps that is due to this subvariant, which seems very transmissible but not more virulent than BA. He observed.
What interests us is if this subvariant has different characteristics from BA. French public health agency said on Friday that there was 1 in terms of severity and contagiousness.
There were only a handful of BA to date. In France, 2 cases have emerged, but the country is monitoring developments as it spreads across the English Channel.
Flahault, the director of the University of Geneva's Institute of Global Health, says the watchword is not panic but vigilance, as we have the impression BA. The severity of 2 cases is comparable to omicron cases.
There are many questions on the table and there is a need to monitor the properties of the new variant on the block.
Very early observations from India and Denmark suggest that there is no dramatic difference in severity compared to BA. According to Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College, London, the latest variant should not be used to question the effectiveness of existing vaccines.
Peacock said that we don't currently have a strong handle on how much more transmissibility BA. We can make some guesses early in the day. He said there is likely to be minimal differences in vaccine effectiveness against BA. I am not sure if BA is true. The current omicron wave of the Pandemic is going to have a significant impact on it.
Several countries are near, or even past the peak of BA. I would be very surprised if BA was right. At this point, 2 caused a second wave. He predicted that this is not a delta-omicron change and is likely to be slower and more subtle, even with slightly higher transmissibility.
The French health minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday that BA. 2 didn't look as if it would prove to be a game-changer as variants appeared on the scene fairly often. He said he would reserve judgment.
We are now familiar with the BA. 2 more or less corresponds to the characteristics that we know of omicron.