According to a top World Health Organisation official, a severely mutated COVID variation known as BA.2.86 has now been found in Switzerland and South Africa in addition to Israel, Denmark, the US, and the UK
Compared to XBB, the Omicron’s sub variant has more than 35 mutations in significant viral regions. The prevalent version for the most of 2023, that is 1.5, which is essentially equivalent to the Omicron variant, which led to record-breaking infections when compared to its progenitor.
After the virus infecting a patient at risk of developing a serious illness was sequenced, it was discovered for the first time in Denmark on July 24. Since then, it has been found in a few nations’ wastewater samples, routine airport screenings, and other symptomatic patients.
Twelve researchers from different parts of the world agreed that although it was crucial to keep an eye on BA.2.86, it was unlikely to unleash a pandemic of fatal illness given the global immune systems that had been strengthened by vaccination and earlier infections.
In her initial interview on BA.2.86, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical head for COVID-19 at the WHO, stated, “It’s still low numbers.” Given the decreased global surveillance, she added, the fact that the known cases are not related means that it is already spreading more widely.
Researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of new COVID-19 vaccinations against BA.2.86. According to Kerkhove, vaccinations have proved more effective than re-infection at preventing serious disease and death.
Although the variant may be more capable of infecting vaccinated individuals and those who have previously had COVID, it appears that current tests and medicines are still effective against BA.2.86, according to the evaluation. There is currently no proof that it is leading to more serious illness.
However, scientists cautioned that the possible risk must be taken seriously and that surveillance must continue, if not at the same level as during the pandemic’s height.
Van Kerkhove added that the coronavirus continues to spread, change, infect, and kill people. “Governments cannot drop the ball,” she stated.
In the United States, some people are already on high alert for another COVID subvariant known as EG.5. On-site molecular tests and sales of at-home tests have risen recently, according to pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, who were speaking to Reuters.
Health experts said the amount of surveillance required to track the virus is still up for debate, and all of the nations that have discovered the new variety have robust genome sequencing capabilities. According to WHO statistics, 84% of countries could sequence Sars-CoV-2 locally as of December 2022.
However, the amount of data provided to the global database GISAID has significantly decreased. More than 200,000 coronavirus sequences were submitted in the first week of Omicron. It was roughly 20,000 the previous week.
According to the WHO, COVID testing has decreased 90% globally since its peak. According to Dr Ashish Jha, who held the position of White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator until June 2023, testing has also drastically decreased and sequencing has decreased by about 90%.