Scientists dubbed “centaur” have raised concerns about a new and highly mutated sub-variant of Covid that has been found in 10 countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is tracking a new sub-variant of Covid that some experts fear could be more evasive and contagious than its former Omicron variants.
Officially named BA.2.75 and nicknamed “Centaurus”, the sub-variant has been registered in 10 countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, the US and the UK. However, the bulk of the cases were found in India. So far, the WHO has not named it as an option of concern.
While analysis of the Centaurus subvariant is still limited, initial research indicates that it does contain a number of spike mutations that may make it more effective at “eluding the immune response”.
“Eight mutations in addition to BA.5, many of which are in the N-terminal domain, which could make immune escape worse than what we’re seeing now.” — American doctor Dr. Eric Topol wrote on Twitter..
Dr. Topol also quoted molecular biologist Ulrich Elling as saying the US might “have to brace” for the centaur wave, adding that he “doesn’t like the mutations we’re seeing.”
The number of mutations can also be a concern, as a subvariant may be more resistant to a previous infection.
“The number of eight additional mutations in BA.2.75 is remarkable. In total, the Delta had eight spikes. tweeted Dr. Elling..
“Three mutations can make a huge difference (BA.5). So 11 mutations different between BA.5 and BA.2.75 could lead to another wave as BA.5 immunity might not protect.”
Despite this, WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan called for more research to be done before the transmissibility and severity of the virus can be fully understood.
“It is still too early to know whether the subvariant has the properties of an additional immune invasion or indeed a more severe clinical condition,” she said.
“We don’t know that, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Speaking to New dailyDeakin University Department of Epidemiology professor Katherine Bennett said that while this new sub-option is likely to result in more cases, she said the more important factor is whether it results in more deaths.
“Therefore, we are not seeing a rapid increase in the number. But it is a concern if it leads to an increase in mortality,” she said.
This comes after WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of Covid cases jumped by almost 30 percent worldwide in the last two weeks.
On Tuesday, NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant also warned of a “third wave of Covid-19 Omicron” and predicted an onslaught of “significant rise in cases” expected to peak in July or early August.
“This photo worries me and I urge the community to do a few things to protect themselves and each other,” she said.
“Isolate if you are sick and get tested, wear a mask indoors and around other people, and find out if antivirals are recommended for you.”
In Australia, states and territories are reporting approximately 33,000 new infections daily, with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) updating their guidance to allow fourth dose of Covid vaccine people aged 30 and over.
In its current form, the additional shot remains unavailable to healthy adults under 30 years of age “because it is unclear whether the benefits outweigh the risks in this population.”
Originally published as World Health Organization identifies ‘stealth omicron’ strain of Covid, centaur