Scientists are concerned about a few new strains of SARS-CoV-2, noting that the variants appear to be able to slip past some antibodies against the virus and attack the lungs, according to a new report.
The sub-variants of the now-dominant Omicron variant — called BA.4 and BA.5 — “seem to partially evade antibodies from previous infection or vaccination, making them more transmissible than other forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” The Daily Beast reported† “There are also some suggestions that the new subvariants have evolved to target the lungs — unlike Omicron, which usually resulted in a less dangerous upper respiratory tract infection.”
The Omicron variant has been shown to be more contagious than previous strains of the virus, but the symptoms are usually much less severe. Scientists are hopeful that the same is true for the new subvariants, and so far in the UK, where the variants were found, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen.
“This could mean that there are higher transferable variants, BA.4 or 5, in play, [and] these variants are much less severe,” Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist with the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida, told The Beast.
Still, the new subvariants appear to be able to sneak past antibodies built through vaccines or infected with COVID.
“The grandchildren of the basic Omicron variant that first appeared in the fall of 2021, BA.4 and BA.5, both have a trio of key mutations in their spike protein, the part of the virus that helps it kill us. grasp and infect. cells,” reported the Beast. Eric Bortz, a virologist and public health expert at the University of Alaska Anchorage, described BA.4 and BA.5 as ‘immunologically distinct sublines.’ In other words, they interact with our antibodies in surprising new ways.”
While COVID fatigue has certainly struck the US, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last month that the pandemic is “certainly not over,” according to WHO head Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Although the number of deaths from COVID has fallen rapidly, the head of the WHO said: “we are lowering our vigilance at our own risk”, according to to the United Nations.
“So, is COVID-19 over? No, it’s definitely not over yet. I know this isn’t the message you want to hear, and it certainly isn’t the message I want to get across,” he said.
Ghebreyesus told officials gathered in Geneva for the opening of the WHO’s annual meeting that declining testing and sequencing means “we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus.” In addition, he said that while billions of people have been vaccinated against the virus, nearly a billion people in low-income countries still have not.
While some 60% of the world’s population has been vaccinated, he said, “It’s not over until it’s over everywhere.” Ghebreyesus said “the number of reported cases is increasing in nearly 70 countries across all regions,” the UN reported. “And this in a world where testing rates have fallen,” added the head of the WHO.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as a White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.