Global cases of Covid BA.2.86 rise to 25, experts say nothing alarming

New Delhi: The heavily-mutated new BA.2.86 Omicron variant is seeing a rapid increase in cases globally, with the number rising to 25. However, experts state that there is nothing to worry about.    

After just three cases the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared it a variant under monitoring (VUM), and also called for closer monitoring of the variant to understand its spread and severity.

BA.2.86, which is a spin-off of the BA.2 version of Omicron, was first detected in Denmark on July 24. It has so far infected people in the UK, US, Israel, Denmark, South Africa, Portugal, Thailand and Switzerland, Sweden, Canada and Scotland.

It carries over 35 mutations in crucial parts of the virus when compared to XBB.1.5. This mutation count is roughly similar to the original Omicron variant that caused a surge in infections compared to its predecessors.

But BA.2.86 “will not be more severe. Like other Omicron sub-lineages, it may not require any treatment in most cases — no ivermectin, no antibiotics, no vitamins, and no supplements. Most will recover on their own,” Dr (Prof) Deepak Natarajan, a Delhi-based Interventional Cardiologist, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Many of BA.2.86’s changes are in regions of the spike protein targeted by the body’s potent infection-blocking, or neutralising antibodies.

“For this reason, there is a good chance that the variant will be able to escape some of the neutralising antibodies triggered by previous infections and vaccine boosters,” as per a Nature report.

The increased differences in the new variant “is not necessarily a cause for alarm”, according to Dr Sarah Pitt, a virologist at the University of Brighton.

“What you have is the virus changes quite a lot as it goes along. Some of those changes are not good for the virus. A lot of them are just neutral, they are just a bit different from the others but it doesn’t make any difference,” Pitt was quoted as saying to BBC Radio Scotland.

“I don’t expect it to be any more dangerous than any other versions of Covid, except remembering that it is quite a nasty disease in some people.

“But I don’t think any of the variants we have seen across the whole of the last two or three years have been overall different, it’s just individuals experience Covid differently and there’s a whole range of things you could have. But there’s nothing new about the symptoms for this one as far as I know.”


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