As BA.5 Dominates US, Is Omicron Subvariant BA.2.75 on the Horizon? | Health News

One year ago, Americans were worried about the delta coronavirus variant. Six months ago, the omicron wave reached its peak. Since then, a succession of new omicron subvariants has kept the US on its toes, with BA.5 as the latest to rise to dominance.

So, what comes next? It’s a guessing game that is baffling experts – many of whom have been humbled by a virus that has rendered predictions a losing battle.

“None of us has a crystal ball, and we are trying to use every last ounce of what we can from predictive modeling and from the data that we have to try to get ahead of a virus that has been very crafty,” Peter Marks, A top vaccine official at the Food and Drug Administration recently said. “For something that’s only nanometers in size, it’s pretty darn crafty. We’re trying to make our best judgment here.”

Still, the FDA is asking vaccine manufacturers to update their shots to match circulating variants in the hopes of providing more efficient boosters in the fall. However, concern is growing that the rapid pace at which variants are turning over means vaccine makers are already falling behind.

Just the latest example of this is BA.2.75, which was first reported in India. More than 20 cases have been documented across nine states in the US. However, the subvariant is not yet at a high enough threshold to make it onto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s variant. tracker as of last week.

The geographical spread of BA.2.75 – it’s been found in at least 15 countries – as well as its many mutations – nine more mutations on the spike protein than BA.2 – means public health officials need to keep an eye on the subvariant, according to Shishi Luo, the head of infectious disease at Helix, a gene sequencing company tracking coronavirus variants.

But for now there is “no evidence yet of the extent to which these mutations impact on transmissibility and disease severity compared to other circulating lineages,” according to the World Health Organization.

While WHO is the official body that names coronavirus variants, several news reports have deemed omicron subvariant BA.2.75 “centaurus” after one Twitter user. posted the name on July 1.

Some have criticized WHO’s naming strategy, saying that it has led to an alphabet soup of subvariants that has made it difficult for the public to follow along with the changing variant scene. But WHO is sticking to its strategy.

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“All these variants, these sublineages of omicron, are variants of concern,” WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19 Maria VanKerhove said last week. “I just want to clarify a narrative that’s out there that WHO needs to give a new Greek letter to each of these sublineages to take this seriously. That is a false narrative, and that is a really dangerous narrative.”

The average American shouldn’t be concerned about BA.2.75 just yet, according to Luo. And to be fair, most probably aren’t.

According to a recent poll from Axios and Ipsos, the majority of Americans haven’t heard of BA.5 – the dominant omicron subvariant circulating in the US that is believed to be the most transmissible coronavirus strain ever detected.

The poll also found that despite elevated infections and Increasing reinfectionsreported mask use is at its lowest point of the pandemic.

Luo says it’s hard to predict what will happen with BA.2.75 just yet.

“I think we can lay out the possibilities,” says Luo. “In one extreme, BA.2.75 really does take over and then we would be looking at something similar to what’s happening with BA.5 right now. Or it could just peter out at the other extreme, and then we wait for the next variant that might be a cause for concern.”

A clearer picture of what BA.2.75 could do will emerge in a few weeks, according to Luo.

The broader takeaway from the latest subvariant, she says, is that it’s becoming less and less likely that COVID-19 will go away.

Although many had hoped that COVID-19 would be more predictable over two years after it was declared a pandemic, that does not seem to be the case. And a majority of Americans seem to have accepted that the coronavirus is here to stay.

Nearly 4 in 5 Americans agree that COVID-19 will not go away during their lifetime, according to the Axios/Ipsos poll.

“Everyone just has to be mentally prepared for the fact that maybe every three-to-six months there’s a new variant,” Luo says. “There might be an uptick in cases. We might always have to get a booster shot once a year for coronavirus if it continues to be as severe as it currently is.”

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