The Omicron variant of coronavirus, which has driven most of the global surges since the beginning of 2022, is mutating continuously. While its sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 were found prevalent in Europe and America, a new sub-lineage of Omicron, BA.2.75, has been detected in India. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), this new sub-lineage has also been detected in many other countries as well.
First reported from India and then from some other countries, this is the second time a new variant or sub-variant has been reported from our country. The Delta variant of coronavirus that caused the second wave of COVID-19 was also reported in India first in 2020.
Although a lot of research is ongoing around Omicron sub-variant BA.2.75, WHO says that it is more transmissible. While it is a fast-spreading variant with many spike mutations appearing together, health experts say it is still too early to know for sure exactly how much better BA.2.75 is at evading vaccine-induced and natural immunity.
Here is what we know so far about the newly mutated sub-variant of Omicron:
What is BA.2.75 and how is it different from other Sub-variants?
Besides the sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5, BA.2.75 is another sub-lineage of the Omicron variant [Ma1] of coronavirus. With new mutations continuously evolving, the sub-lineages of Omicron have become the dominant variants circulating worldwide. Currently, this new BA.2.75 sub-variant has been detected in approximately 10 states in India. While not much is known about this sub-lineage, health experts have raised concerns about it.
What are the Symptoms of sub-variant BA.2.75?
No distinct symptoms have been reported so far. It is said that the infection caused by Omicron variant BA.2.75 is mild or asymptomatic. However, it is too early to say anything about this sub-variants clinical symptoms.
Many health experts have said that the number of severe COVID cases has reduced these days compared to earlier. However, experts advise looking out for COVID-19-induced sore throat that causes scratchiness, dryness, and pain. The symptoms are usually mild and may last no more than 4-5 days.
Older adults and those with comorbidities should be extra careful and consult a doctor immediately. Sometimes, sore throat is followed by other symptoms such as loss of taste or smell, congestion, chills, fatigue, body aches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
However, the symptoms are milder, particularly in vaccinated or previously infected people.
Can BA.2.75 evade vaccine protection?
Based on early evidence, health experts believe that this new sub-lineage may circumvent vaccine protection. Omicron, including its sub-variants, are known to evade vaccine protection and immunity from an earlier infection.
According to Bloom Lab, a lab researching the molecular evolution of viruses and proteins in the US, the BA.2.75 sub-lineage will have antibody escape similar to that for BA.4 or BA. 5 with respect to the current vaccine.
However, experts agree on the fact that vaccines still remain the best defence against COVID-19 even if they have not prevented people from getting infected.
Is BA.2.75 subvariant more transmissible?
The BA.2.75 sub-variant has many mutations that are different from the earlier Omicron variants. A few of these mutations are connected to the spike protein area and may allow the virus to bind better with the cells.
In addition, with changes in the genetic material of the virus, it is possible for the BA.2.75 subvariant to escape antibodies from vaccines or earlier infections.
Is it a variant of concern?
While experts worldwide flagged this new BA.2.75 sub-variant earlier, WHO acknowledged it officially on 6th July 2022. While WHO is watching the data from around the world closely, according to them, it is too early to say if it can cause severe infections.
What are the preventative measures to take?
Apart from getting vaccinated, including the recommended booster doses, wearing masks and cleanliness are relevant forever.
- Wear face masks and maintain social distance when you step outside
- Follow appropriate hand hygiene and watch out for any cold symptoms
- Get all your vaccine doses when you are eligible, including booster doses on time
- If required, consult a doctor if your fever or cold is not subsiding
In addition, health experts recommend continuing to check trusted sources such as the CDC, WHO, and the Central and State government guidelines for evidence-based information about preventing the spread of the disease.
The high transmissibility of BA.2.75 may cause another major public-health problem, threatening unvaccinated people. This high transmissibility rate explains the number of positive cases. Evidence shows that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can be infected with the highly transmissible subvariant. The recommended preventive measures against COVID-19 infection must continue, including vaccination, physical distancing, correctly wearing the facemasks, and avoiding crowded places and mass-gathering events.