What you need to know about BA.2, a new Omicron variant

Even as SARS-CoV-2 gets better at spreading and evading some of the immune protection humans have built up through infections or vaccination, new variants inevitably arise. The latest is BA.2, a new version of Omicron.

It is too early to predict what BA.2 could mean for the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But by detecting such variants early, public health experts can better identify which pose the greatest threat to people’s health and therefore require stricter mitigation measures. This is what we know so far.

What is the BA.2 variant?

BA.2 appears to be a descendant of Omicron (which researchers now refer to as BA.1). World Health Organization researchers reported increasing numbers of BA.2 infections in Denmark, India and the United Kingdom in January. Although it has only been a few days since the variant was identified, South Africa and the US have also reported cases of BA. 2. So far, the virus has been detected in four US states: California, New Mexico, Texas and Washington. Scientists have found BA.2 thanks to more widespread genetic sequencing, allowing them to more quickly detect changes in SARS-CoV-2 and determine how those mutations might affect human health.
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Is the new BA.2 variant more dangerous than Omicron?

Like Omicron, BA.2 contains numerous mutations, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness, a collaboration of academic researchers from several institutes in the Boston area that monitor genetic changes in SARS-CoV-2. About 20 mutations are located in the antibody binding regions targeted by vaccines. BA.2 also contains some mutations not found in BA.1, but scientists don’t yet know what those changes mean.

Should you be concerned?

The WHO has not yet determined whether BA.2 is a variant of care. So far there is not enough information to determine how transmissible or virulent BA.2 is, although BA.2 is now more common than BA.1 in South Africa. It is not yet clear whether BA.2 is more transferable than Omicron.

Do current COVID-19 vaccines work against BA.2?

It’s still unknown, but the good news is that there is mounting evidence that vaccines to date generate both immediate and long-term immunity against all variants of SARS-CoV-2. The antibodies catalyzed by the injections may only protect against infection for a relatively short time – Modernna reported this week that even after a booster dose of its vaccine, these virus-neutralizing antibodies tend to wane after six months – but the The body’s immune response to vaccination also includes T cells. These are more durable and target more conserved areas of the virus; Until now, T cells seem to offer good and lasting protection against serious diseases of any variant, even when people become infected.

This post What you need to know about BA.2, a new Omicron variant

was original published at “https://time.com/6143069/new-omicron-variant-ba2/”