Two new strains of COVID-19 have arrived in the U.S. These variants evade antibodies from vaccinations and prior infections, which could create the possibility of a new wave.

Driving the news: These subvariants are BA.4 and BA.5, mutations of the omicron BA.1 variant, originating from South Africa where there has been a surge in cases despite a high percentage of the population being vaccinated or previously infected.

State of play: While the original omicron spread fast, the two newer strains are more infectious, Bloomberg reported.

Details: The Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa conducted a study that found that the BA.4 and BA.5 variants can evade antibodies.

  • “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well against symptomatic infection,” the study noted, per Bloomberg.
  • “This may indicate that, based on neutralization escape, BA.4 and BA.5 have the potential to result in a new infection wave.”

What they’re saying: “BA.4 sequences have been identified in samples from multiple U.S. states,” Andy Pekosz, a virologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Fortune, adding that the variant is spreading in the country but “it’s just not clear precisely how widely.”

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What’s next?: While these variants are spreading globally, it is hard to predict the future, explained Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician who led the pandemic preparedness response for the H1N1 swine flu virus, per The New York Times.

  • A surge in cases in one country doesn’t necessarily mean a surge elsewhere, which is why monitoring data and stopping transmission is vital.
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