01 New Covid variant BA.2.86
Over the past few weeks, Covid cases are once again increasing around the world. Amid rising cases, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is tracking a recently discovered COVID-19 strain called BA.2.86. This comes after the World Health Organization classified BA.2.86 strain as a "variant under monitoring" due to its large number of mutations.
It is too early to say whether the BA.2.86 variant will be more dangerous than the currently circulating strains of Coronavirus. The U.N. agency says more data is needed to understand the threat BA.2.86 might pose. However, it has accelerated the classification to "variant under monitoring" due to its sheer number of changes.
03 What is new in this variant?
As cases have started to crop up around the world, the strain's dozens of genetic changes has raised eyebrows among virologists. Mutations of this variant include some changes at key parts of the virus that may help it better dodge the body's immunity from prior infections or vaccination.
"Deep mutational scanning indicates BA.2.86 variant will have equal or greater escape than XBB.1.5 from antibodies elicited by pre-Omicron and first-generation Omicron variants," Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutch Cancer Center, said in a slide deck published Thursday, quoted CBS news. BA.2.86 has 36 mutations relative to the XBB.1.5 variant, Bloom said.
04 Where is this variant seen in the world?
05 Is BA.2.86 more risky than circulating variant ‘Eris’?
At present, experts say BA.2.86 will still need to show it can outcompete other fast-spreading descendants of the XBB Omicron variant already on the rise around the world in order to be more than a "scientific curiosity," CBS news reported.
Meanwhile, another XBB descendant – EG.5 or Eris – has already climbed to nearly 1 in 5 cases in the US, as of CDC estimates published earlier this month. According to the US CDC, BA.2.86 will remain aggregated with its distant parent, the Omicron variant known as BA.2, until it reaches 1% prevalence in its weighted estimates.
06 Common COVID symptoms at present
According to a recent ZOE study, a health research project of British company Zoe Limited, common Covid symptoms at present include sore throat, runny or blocked nose, sneezing, cough with or without phlegm, headache, hoarse voice, and muscle aches.