Heavily Mutated Omicron Sub-variant Detected In 57 Countries: WHO

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Geneva: A sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain, which have been indicated even more infectious than the original version, has now been detected in as many as 57 countries, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to WHO, in its recent weekly epidemiological update, explained that Omicron, accounting for over 93 per cent of all coronavirus specimens collected in the past month, counts several sub-lineages: BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2, and BA.3.

The BA.1 and BA.1.1, the very first Omicron sub-variants that were identified, still account for over 96 per cent of all the Omicron sequences uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative.

However, there has since then been a clear rise in cases involving the BA.2 sub-variant, which counts several different mutations from the original – including one on the spike protein that dots the virus’s surface and is key to entering human cells.

“BA.2- designated sequences have been submitted to GISAID from 57 countries to date,” WHO said, adding that in some countries, the sub-variant now accounted for over half of all Omicron sequences gathered.

WHO admits that little is known right now about the complete extent of differences between all the sub-variants; however, detailed studies can reveal their characteristics – including transmissibility, immune evasion, and virulence.

Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the WHO’s top experts on Covid-19, told reporters yesterday that information about the sub-variant was very limited, but that some initial data indicated BA.2 had “a slight increase in growth rate over BA.1”.

Several recent studies have hinted that BA.2 is more infectious than the original Omicron.

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