Doctor calls Covid BA.5 ‘worst case we’ve ever seen’

Calling the new strain of Covid “the worst variant we’ve ever seen,” the doctor fears the transmissibility and severity of the virus is akin to a much deadlier variant.

Experts believe that people who become infected with the BA.5 strain of Covid-19, one of the sub-variants that cause the third wave of the virus in Australia, may be ill with the virus for longer.

Calling it “the worst variant we’ve seen so far,” respected American physicist Dr. Eric Topol raised concerns about its “severity of immunity evasion and transmissibility.”

Shares his observations in his subscription newsletter, Ground Truths, Dr Topol cited results published in new report Australian Kirby Institute.

Although the report has not yet been peer-reviewed, it found that BA.5 bears a disturbing similarity to the Delta strain, which causes more severe symptoms and higher hospitalization rates.

“The ability to infect cells for BA.5 is more similar to Delta than to the previous family of Omicron variants,” he wrote.

The study also found that BA.5 infection contained “similarities of high viral loads for BA.5 and Delta”.

Oddly enough, he said it could also explain why people infected with BA.5 take “a very long time to get a negative result…often exceeding 10 days,” he wrote.

Regardless, Dr. Topol said it is too early to confirm whether the BA.5 variant causes more severe disease, saying it is “still unclear, but possible given its delta-like cell infectivity.” However, he said, initial reports indicated that it was likely.

Referring to the tropism of the virus, also known as its ability to infect cells and thus cause more severe disease, Dr. Topol noted that the subvariant has “a much better ability to enter cells.”

“[This may] help explain why this version of the virus caused a lot of trouble – more than other sub-variants of Omicron, ”he wrote.

“Especially unique and unusual”

Along with the BA.4 strain, health experts have expressed significant concern about the “highly infectious” BA.5 subvariant.

In early July, Health Secretary Mark Butler warned that it appeared that people who had been vaccinated against the virus or were immune from contracting the virus were “still susceptible.”

“They are even more contagious than the earlier sub-variants that led to the summer wave, the BA.1 wave in January and the BA.2 wave in April and May,” Mr. Butler said.

“What’s particularly unique and different from BA.4 and BA.5 is that they’re very good at evading people’s immunity.”

“Encountering a Really Big Threat”

Similar to global trends, Australia has seen a significant jump in Covid cases in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care registered 41,335 new cases, with the total number of active cases in the country estimated at 314,075. By comparison, a week ago on July 5, Australia reported 36,445 new infections in the country with approximately 268,697 active cases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of Covid internationally jumped 30 percent in the last two weeksdue to the weakening of measures to monitor and protect against Covid and sub-variants that appear to be more contagious.

“Omicron sub-options such as BA.4 and BA.5 continue to cause waves of illness, hospitalizations and deaths around the world,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Surveillance has been greatly reduced, including testing and sequencing, making it difficult to assess the effect of variants on transmission, disease characteristics, and the effectiveness of countermeasures.”

Speaking about the new Covid threat, Australian Medical Association Vice President Chris Moy said hospitals are “faced with a really big threat.”

“We are very concerned that we will be facing sub-variants BA.4 and 5 of Omicron, which are more contagious, cause more re-infections and severe illness, because it looks like they are more likely to get into your lungs,” he told ABC.

He feared that the BA.5 variant could peak similar to the Omicron strain in January.

“More people are entering hospitals just when our hospitals are absolutely overwhelmed because they have been neglected for so long,” he said.

“We are about to enter a much worse phase.”

Originally published as Doctor calls Covid BA.5 ‘worst case we’ve ever seen’