There is growing concern about two new sub-variants Corona virus infection covid-19 what is has pushed the rate of infection in the UKraising fears that other countries could also see a resurgence of cases.
The strains, known as BA.4 and BA.5, were discovered in the South Africa in January and February respectively and are actually grandchildren Omicron variant of Art coronaviruswhich spread worldwide in late 2021, and have three mutations in their spike proteins that are feared to allow them to relearn their attack on human lung cells.
This means they have more in common with the earlier, more dangerous versions of Alpha and Delta than with the highly transmissive but milder Omicron, which targeted upper respiratory tissue.
Potentially, these mutations could also allow subvariants to bypass antibodies from past infections or vaccinations and thus overcome immunity.
Preliminary evidence from Professor Kei Sato of the University of Tokyo in Japan appears to point to this, prompting the virologist to comment: “Overall, our studies show that the risk [these] The Omicron variants, particularly BA.4 and BA.5, are potentially greater for global health than the original BA.2.”
Professor Sato’s experiments show that the variants multiply more efficiently in the lungs than Omicron, while further experiments in hamsters have shown that BA.4 and BA.5 can cause more severe disease.
The World Health Organization has also been investigating two sub-variants since April to assess whether they are more infectious or dangerous than their predecessors, and has since added them to its watchlist.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in turn marked BA.4 and BA.5 as “problem options” back in mid-May.
Of particular concern in recent weeks has been a spike in British infections following four days of celebrations to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee from June 2 to 5, which encouraged more communication and duly led to the number of cases increased by 43 percent next week.
Great Britain latest data records 75,367 new cases in the seven days to June 15, an increase of almost 39 percent in the week.
The death rate from Covid remains very low, but hospitalizations began to risedoubling in England from 421 on May 26 to 842 on June 15.
While immunity is high in Britain, with 87.1 percent of the population received two doses of the vaccine and 68.5 percent of people who received a booster, the public largely acted as if the pandemic had never happened since the last Boris JohnsonThe US government’s unpopular restrictions were lifted a month ahead of schedule on February 24, ditching masks and distancing and returning to normal life.
However, it has been more than six months since the last major booster vaccination was given in the run-up to Christmas and New Year, and immunity may be starting to wane, potentially leading to more patients requiring professional care and possibly even dying now or later in the year when flu season hits.
“There’s a gap between how infections happen … and how people choose not to take very many precautions,” said John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. warned The Daily Beastobserving the situation in Great Britain and suggesting that its conditions could easily be replicated across the Atlantic.
If an equivalent surge of the subvariant comes to North America moving from east to west, as all previous Covid waves have done, the US will be much less immunized, with only 66.8 percent of the American public is fully vaccinated and only 47 percent received a booster.
BA.4 and BA.5 are currently approx 21 percent or one in five new cases in the US, according to the data Centers for Disease Control and Preventionthe first was identified on the American shore in New York in April.
But experts now expect that proportion to increase significantly in the coming weeks, another unwelcome reminder that the pandemic is far from over, however much we may wish it to be.
How dangerous the new subvariants really are, whether they can produce transferred antibodies and cause serious disease, or whether our accumulated immunity will survive remains to be seen.