A new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has put epidemiologists around the world on alert, and the World Health Organization is asking countries to maintain early warning, surveillance and reporting systems as they work to assess the level of risk of the current coronavirus.
The BA.2.86 variant, which was first detected in Israel, was classified as a new variant under surveillance by the World Health Organization on August 17, after the agency received nine sequences from five countries — three in the WHO’s European region, and one in African region. and one in the Americas region.
The variant has more than 30 spike protein mutations compared to the XBB variants currently prevalent in the United States and around the world, namely XBB.1.16 and EG.5, for which it has been named Eris, after the name of the Greek alphabet used. for other variables.
The World Health Organization made EG.5 an interesting variant, or VOI, earlier this month, which is an upgrade from the designation of the Variant in Monitor, or VUM.
But BA.2.86 is of concern to experts because there is little data needed to assess its potential impact.
“It is critical to maintain early warning, monitoring and reporting
“Tracking, providing early clinical care, administering booster vaccines to high-risk groups, improving ventilation, and regular contact,” the agency said in its latest weekly update.
This update, which reviews the virus status for the 28-day period up to August 20, does not contain any data from the WHO’s Region of the Americas, because reporting for this period was incomplete. This is a concern that the World Health Organization has repeatedly warned about, as countries backtrack on disease surveillance as they seek to get ahead of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization officially declared the emergency phase of the pandemic over on May 5, but stressed that the coronavirus remains a major threat. Many countries have dismantled much of their regulatory regimes and greatly reduced testing and data measurement.
See also: The novel coronavirus variant “Eris” dominates in the United States, but a lack of data makes it difficult to track
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention I offered an update this week on BA.2.86 — which it said had been detected in Denmark, South Africa, Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom — and said multiple locations are a sign of international transmission. The CDC has acknowledged the challenge of surveillance.
“It is worth noting that the amount of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences globally has decreased significantly from previous years, which means that more variants may emerge and spread undetected for longer periods of time,” the US agency said in its update.
The CDC also noted the current increase in hospital admissions in the United States, although it said this is not due to variant BA.2.86.
“It is too early to know whether this variant may cause more severe disease compared to previous variants,” the CDC said.
Perhaps the biggest issue is whether the new variant has more escaping existing immunity from previous vaccines and infections than other modern variants.
“One mutation analysis indicates that the difference may be as great as or greater than the difference between BA.2 and XBB.1.5, which circulate about a year apart,” the CDC said. “However, virus samples are not yet widely available for more reliable laboratory tests for antibodies, and it is too early to know realistic effects on immunity.”
The agency said Americans preparing for what is expected to be an annual coronavirus booster vaccine this fall can be confident that those vaccines will be designed to protect against all XBB subvariants, including iris.
It is possible that antibodies accumulated in the population through infection, vaccination, or both may provide protection against BA.2.86, the CDC said. However, she said, “This is an area of ongoing scientific research.”
The ability to neutralize the virus depends on levels of neutralizing antibodies, which must be lower for BA.2.86 than for previous variants that people have, said Eric Topol, chief of innovative medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. have been exposed to it or have been immunized against it.
“We also note that the burden of novel mutations for BA.2.86 is not limited to high and can be seen widely across other components of the virus,” he wrote in a commentary this week. “If BA.2.86 is successful, it will be a true test of how well our T cells respond to a challenge.”
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly forecasts for where Iris and other variants will spread continue to be hampered by a lack of data. In early August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would not be able to publish its report “nowcasting” forecasts because it did not have enough sequences to update the estimates.
“Because Nowcast is model data, we need a certain number of sequences to accurately predict proportions at the present time,” Kathleen Conley, a CDC representative, told MarketWatch at the time.
The agency received data from only three US regions. In the latest weekly update for the week ending August 19, I also got data from just three regions.
Separately, the CDC reported A 21.6% increase in hospital admissions in the United States due to COVID-19 In the week ending August 12th. Deaths rose 21.4% in the week ending August 19.