What we know so far about BA.2.86 (“Pirola”), the new strain of COVID-19

Photo credit: Unsplash+

A new variant of the coronavirus, BA.2.86, is of concern to health experts, but it’s too early to say if this variant is more communicable than current strains of the virus — or if it persists at all.

But there might be cause for concern. This variant, unofficially nicknamed “Pirola,” a combination of the Greek letters pi and rho, has more than 30 mutations in its spike protein compared to XBB.1.5, a variant of Omicron found in the United States the dominant strain was States before being recently surpassed by EG.5.

The coronavirus enters human cells via the spike protein.

“Such a high number of mutations is remarkable,” says Scott Roberts, MD, infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine, adding that it’s comparable to the number of mutations found between Delta, one of the early strains of the coronavirus, and Omicron are different.

“When Omicron emerged in the winter of 2021, there was a huge spike in COVID-19 cases because it was so different from the Delta variant and eluded immunity to both natural infections and vaccines,” says Dr. Roberts.

“The other concern is that this strain has emerged in at least six countries and the cases are unrelated. This suggests some level of transmission in the [international] community that we don’t recognize.”

We have with Dr. Roberts talked more about BA.2.86.

What do we know about BA.2.86 so far?

BA.2.86 is a renamed variant of Omicron, which is itself a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. BA.2.86 has additional mutations compared to previously discovered omicron subvariants.

More specifically, it is derived from BA.2, an omicron subvariant that was circulating more than a year ago, adds Dr. Roberts added.

BA.2.86 was first detected in Denmark in late July and made an appearance in the United States in August.

The fact that the known cases so far don’t seem to be linked suggests the strain is more widespread than previously thought, especially since surveillance of COVID-19 has eased, says Dr. Roberts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), existing tests to detect and medications to treat COVID-19 (such as Paxlovid, Veklury, and Lagevrio) appear to be effective in BA.2.86, but this variant may be more effective in individuals who have contracted or been vaccinated against COVID-19 cause an infection.

There is currently no evidence that the strain causes more serious illnesses.

In addition, the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US at this time is likely to be caused by XBB lineage viruses and not BA.2.86.

What’s most worrying about this new variant?

Because BA.2.86 has so many mutations that distinguish it from other strains of coronavirus, many medical experts are wondering if it has the potential to evade immune defenses both through natural infection and through prior vaccination, explains Dr. Roberts.

“Nobody knows at the moment, but the studies are ongoing,” he says. “The biggest concern was the number of mutational differences with BA.2.86. When we went from XBB.1.5 to EG.5, that was maybe a mutation or two, and that’s to be expected.

Because each respiratory virus spreads from person to person, it gradually evolves over time. But these massive shifts that we have also seen from delta to omicron are worrying.”

Even the flu, emphasizes Dr. Roberts, sometimes undergoes massive changes, such as with swine flu in 2009. However, sometimes these variants go away and do nothing, he adds.

“The big question is whether BA.2.86 will experience the same exponential growth as Omicron – in terms of case numbers – or whether it will die out, which I’m sure everyone is hoping for,” says Dr. Roberts.

As of August 30, the CDC reported that the variant had been identified in at least four US states in human or sewage samples.

The good news is that thanks to higher herd immunity to infection and vaccination, the world is not as vulnerable to serious illness or infection from the coronavirus as it was in 2020, explains Dr. Roberts.

“Since the original version of SARS-CoV-2, many people have become infected and many have been vaccinated,” he says.

“However, for many of us it may have been a year or more since we received a booster shot, so I would recommend everyone to get the updated shot, which is expected to be available around mid-September.”

Does the new COVID-19 booster protect against BA.2.86?

According to the CDC, scientists are evaluating the effectiveness of the upcoming updated COVID-19 booster against BA.2.86.

Currently, the CDC believes the updated vaccine will be effective in reducing serious illness and hospitalizations from BA.2.86.

“I suspect it will also provide some extra protection against infection, but it won’t be 100%,” says Dr. Roberts.

“With this in mind, the CDC’s preliminary report states that we currently have no evidence that BA.2.86 results in more serious illness, death or hospitalization.

We don’t yet know how transmissible it is and it’s very likely that it’s not spreading that well and we’ll see that it’s over in a few weeks,” says Dr. Roberts.

“But it’s important to remember that at heart it’s still the same virus, so the same prevention methods – including masking, vaccination and hand washing – can help people avoid infection.”

Written by Carrie MacMillan.

If you are interested in COVID, please read studies about it Vitamin D deficiency associated with severe COVID-19 diseaseAnd how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information on COVID, see current studies A low-sodium plant-based diet is better at preventing COVID-19and results are displayed Zinc could help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

follow us on Twitter for more articles on this topic.

Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LauraCoffey@worldtimetodays.com.

Related Articles

Back to top button