BA.2, better known under the nickname ‘Stealth Omicron’, a The new COVID-19 sub-version currently ‘under investigation’ by the UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA).
The variant was identified in the UK in January and has since spread across the country – with more than 1,000 confirmed cases so far in England alone.
The variant has been reported in 40 countries, with Denmark showing the most significant increase in BA.2 cases.
Here’s what you need to know about the new variant.
What is the Stealth Omicron variant?
BA.2 is a sub-lineage of the original Omicron – BA.1 – but it appears to have some differences that can make it both faster to spread and harder to detect.
BA.2 shows positive for the S-gene (the largest of the four major structural proteins found in coronaviruses, sometimes called the spike gene) while BA.1 does not. The fact that Ba.1 lacked the S-gene was important for detecting and tracking the spread of Omicron, as it differentiated it from Delta.
It is unclear where BA.2 originated, although the first cases were reported in the Philippines.
Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said there may be some evidence it is spreading rapidly – but more research is needed.
He tweeted: ‘BA.2 appears to be the dominant Omicron lineage in (part of) India and the Philippines and there is evidence that it is increasing compared to BA.1 in Denmark, UK and Germany.
‘Constant development in many countries is evidence that BA.2 may be somewhat more permeable than BA.1. This is the main reason why BA.2 is in the news at the moment.’
What are the symptoms of Stealth Omicron COVID Edition?
As of now, no new symptoms have been identified.
Since the new variant is a sub-lineage of Omicron, it can be expected that similar Omicron symptoms may be present.
- night sweats
- scratchy throat
- dry cough
- mild muscle pain
In data published by UKHSA on 14 January, they found that NHS test and trace data showed that loss of smell or taste was less frequent in Omicron cases than in Delta cases (13% of Omicron cases, 34% of Delta cases). was reported.
However, World Health Organization (WHO) officials assured that the symptoms of BA.2 are as mild as in the original version.
Dr Boris Pavlin, a member of the WHO’s COVID-19 response team, said during a briefing, “Looking at other countries where BA.2 is now leading the way, we see no higher-than-expected barriers to hospitalisation. Is.”
‘Vaccination is intensely protective against serious disease, including Omicron. BA.2 is rapidly replacing BA.1. Its impact is not likely to be substantial, although more data is needed.’
Why is it called the Stealth Omicron Edition?
The BA.2 shares many of the features of the original Omicron – the BA.1 – but the new version gets its stealth nickname from one of its key differences.
The omicron was relatively easy to track down because of one specific feature—the deletion of a spike gene. This made it stand out on PCR tests without the need for additional genome sequencing.
But the new stealth Omicron strain doesn’t appear to have that, making it more difficult to monitor.
This means that if someone has this version of COVID-19, PCR tests will still show up, with samples needing to be sent for further laboratory analysis to determine if someone has omicrons.
Is the Stealth Omicron more permeable than the normal Omicron?
Although it is too early to know for sure, preliminary reports indicate that BA.2 is more contagious than the already highly contagious BA.1 Omicron.
In England, a preliminary analysis of contact tracing by the UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) from 27 December to 11 January suggests that household transmission among contacts of people infected with BA.2 is high – the new version has a household transmission rate of 13.4. %, compared to 10.3% for normal omicron cases.
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