Nicknamed “centaurus,” the omicron subvariant labeled BA.2.75 by scientists is rising rapidly in India and is likely responsible for the bulk of COVID-19 cases there, according to an analysis Austrian scientist Ulrich Elling posted on Twitter and cited by MedPage Today.
Elling pointed out that India “barely” had any the original omicron variant that drove cases to record-breaking levels in Utah and the U.S. last winter so the spread of the BA.2.75 subvariant suggests it is able to evade immunity from other subvariants that followed.
“One infection might protect from the next wave, but not the one after that ... a never-ending story,” he tweeted.
The new strain of the coronavirus has been identified in 10 countries so far, according to the Australian online news site, news.com.au, including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed to MedPage Today there have been two cases of BA.2.75 detected in the United States, and the first test sample where the subvariant showed up in genomic sequencing was collected on June 14.
Because so few BA.2.75 cases have been identified in the United States, the subvariant is not yet being tracked on the CDC’s website. The World Health Organization said BA.2.75 — actually a subvariant of the BA.2 omicron subvariant better known as “stealth omicron” — first surfaced in India in May.
While the mutations seen in BA.2.75 suggest it may have a growth advantage over other strains, Marc Johnson, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri’s school of medicine, told MedPage Today that “we don’t really know if BA.2.75 is more transmissible or more severe at this point.”
Johnson said COVID-19 vaccines will provide “even less” protection against latest version of the virus, although being fully vaccinated and boosted continues to protect against severe cases that lead to hospitalization and even death.
“We should be concerned, yes, but we shouldn’t freak out,” Johnson said. “This lineage has a good chance to increase infections and become the new dominant lineage, but it is not likely to cause a sweeping wave the way that omicron did.”
Kelly Oakeson, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services’ chief scientist for next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, said recently the state is watching for the new subvariant to show up as positive COVID-19 test samples are genome sequenced,
“We’re already keeping an eye out for another omicron variant in India, BA.2.75, that seems to be even worse that BA.4 or BA.5. So we’re not done with the virus,” he said, suggesting it may only be a matter of time before the new strain makes its way to Utah.
“If we follow the same trend that we’ve seen kind of over and over and over again in the United States as well as the rest of the world, right, we’re going to have these waves” of subvariants, Oakeson said, bringing “more cases and more sickness. Then they’re going to go away and then they’re going to come back again.”