Facebook Twitter

BA.4.6: Is omicron evolving in ‘worrisome’ ways?

Research suggests that the new omicron variant BA.4.6 is even better at evading immunity

SHARE BA.4.6: Is omicron evolving in ‘worrisome’ ways?
This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19.

Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin, CDC via Associated Press

The latest omicron variant BA.4.6 is gaining ground and already accounts for 9.2% of new cases. An Associated Press report suggests that this new omicron subvariant is “even better at evading the immune system” than the fast-spreading BA.5.

Emerging research also points out that the virus is mutating to become more immunity evasive.

“Every time we think we’ve seen the peak transmission, peak immune escape properties, the virus exceeds that by another significant notch,” said Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute, per the report.

But this can’t go on forever.

“I think there is a limit,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “What we’re really dealing with, though, is there’s still a lot of people across the world who don’t have any prior immunity — either they haven’t been infected or they haven’t had access to vaccination.”

Simply put, if the baseline immunity rises significantly, then the rate of infections should go down, he said, adding that there is a chance the virus mutates and becomes more severe.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said at a recent press conference that the virus will exist for the rest of our lives.

“Obviously if we take our foot off the gas — if we stop updating our vaccines, we stop getting new treatments — then we could slip backward,” he said, per AP.

“Just be aware that BA.4.6 is going to be resistant, and it is gaining ground on BA.5. So folks who are immunocompromised in general should be more cautious,” Dr. David Ho, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, told CNN.

What are the top omicron symptoms?

As I previously reported, omicron subvariants have a shorter incubation period, which is why the symptoms may appear earlier.

The most common omicron-related symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.

Other common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headache.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Diarrhea.