A new subvariant of Omicron on the World Health Organization’s radar – the one that some experts say may be the most immune to date – has been identified in the United States, the Centers for Disease has said. Control and Prevention. Fortune Thursday.
There have been two cases of BA.2.75, nicknamed “Centaurus”, detected in the United States, with the first identified on June 14, a CDC spokesperson said.
The CDC does not publicly report emerging variants until they represent 1% of cases. Thus, current BA.2.75 cases are reported on the agency’s data tracker as BA.2 cases, which accounted for less than 3% of U.S. cases reported last week, according to data released Tuesday.
Centaurus has recently risen to prominence in India, competing with the BA.5 Omicron sub-variant that is sweeping the world. WHO officials said they were tracking the ultra-new subvariant at a press conference on Wednesday and released information about it via Twitter on Tuesday.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 5, 2022
BA.2.75 has been reported in “about 10 other countries” and has not been declared a variant of concern, WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said in a tweet on Tuesday. The transmissibility, severity and potential for immune evasion are currently unknown, she added.
But some experts are raising potential red flags. Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said Monday that mutations in the new subvariant “could make immune evasion worse than what we’re seeing now” with BA .5 and BA. .4, both of which are subvariants known to evade immunity from both vaccination and prior infection.
The basis for concern about the Omicron BA.2.75 variant.
8 mutations beyond BA.5, many in the N-terminal domain, which could make immune escape worse than what we’re seeing now. Competing w/ BA.5 in India. Excellent thread by @EllingUlrich 👇 https://t.co/Ko5AYxEonv
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) July 4, 2022
BA.2.75 was first detected in India in early June. Along with the usual Omicron mutations, it features up to nine additional modifications, none of which are individually relevant. “But all appearing together at the same time is another matter,” Tom Peacock, a virologist in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, recently tweeted.
Its “apparent rapid growth and wide geographic distribution” are of concern, he added.
Surveillence minded folks – worth keeping a close eye on BA.2.75 – lots of spike mutations, probable second generation variant, apparent rapid growth and wide geographical spread…https://t.co/sY0edKoQHX
— Tom Peacock (@PeacockFlu) June 30, 2022
Besides India, the virus has been detected in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, according to a statement released Tuesday by the University’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. of Minnesota, citing Ulrich Elling, researcher at the Austrian Institute. molecular biotechnology.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said fortuneth Thursday it’s unclear if Centaurus can “really take off” against BA.5 and relative BA.4.
Centaurus “may just spread for a while until it encounters BA.5 and is overtaken by people to infect,” Adalja said. “I don’t know at this time that BA.2.75 will be anything other than a regional issue that will eventually be overwhelmed by BA.5.”
The all-new variant could also mirror another “stealth Omicron” spinoff, BA.2.12.1, in that it could take over for a while, as BA.2.12.1 did to the States. States, becoming dominant on BA.2 in May. and remaining dominant until BA.4 and BA.5 pushed it down in late June – until the next more transmissible variant comes along, he said.
As to whether Centaurus could cause more severe disease, such variants “won’t be something that evolution will push,” he said, adding that people with more severe disease are usually on the lookout. home or in the hospital, too sick to go out and spread. the virus.
BA.5 is now dominant in the United States The former heavy hitter, BA.2, is a shadow of his former self.
“Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant is the worst version of the virus we’ve seen,” Topol wrote last week as the subvariant was poised to become mainstream in the United States. higher level and, as a result, improved transmissibility”, far beyond what has been seen before.
A recent study in South Africa found that those previously infected with Omicron but not vaccinated experienced an almost eight-fold drop in neutralizing antibodies when exposed to BA.4 and BA.5. Those who had been vaccinated and previously infected with Omicron saw a milder triple decrease.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com