New Omikron variants BA.4 and BA.5 appeared – what do we know?

Omicron continues to mutate: the virus has produced two new subtypes that have already been classified by the World Health Organization for surveillance. What do we know about mutations so far?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently tracking some new cases of two other highly contagious omicron subvariants: BA.4 and BA.5.

Sister variants have been added to the list for monitoring. So far, the Who is the Omikron variants BA.1 and BA.2 as well as BA.1.1 and BA.3. News is circulating on social networks that BA.5 in particular could not only be more contagious than Omicron, but more dangerous than Delta. What is behind this claim and what is known about the mutations so far?

information: Omicron type BA.1 appeared at the end of 2021 and launched the first Omicron wave. BA.2 currently dominates the infection process in Germany and is considered the most contagious.

How are BA.4 and BA.5 composed?

BA.4 and BA.5 have not been fully investigated. However, one thing is clear: both BA.4 and BA.5 have the L452R mutation, which can also be found in the delta variant. Since these variants are already prevalent in South Africa, it is unclear what this means for the rest of the world.

The main concern is that the novel coronavirus variants may carry mutations that make them more transmissible.

Do our vaccines protect against new variants?

The Omicron variant has already found ways to circumvent the immune protection offered by vaccines from Biontech/Pfizer, Moderna or Astrazeneca that have been used so far. The concern now is that the new sub variants will develop better immune escape capabilities.

If it contains many mutations in the critical spike protein that vaccines target, it may make the vaccines less effective.

Belgian evolutionary biologist Tom Winsellers also explains on Twitter that some of the mutants contain the L452R mutation in the spike protein, which was also present in the delta variant, but not in the omicron. This could mean a slight advantage in immune escape. However, not much is known about this yet.

Where have the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variables appeared so far?

According to the NHS, BA.4 has so far been detected in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, Scotland and England. All cases of BA.5 occurred in South Africa.

However, on Monday, Botswana’s Ministry of Health said it had found four cases of BA.4 as well as BA.5. All subjects aged 30 to 50 years who were fully vaccinated were detected and had mild symptoms.

Are BA.4 and BA.5 more contagious and dangerous than previous mutations?

WHO experts are currently investigating whether the new subtypes are contagious or more dangerous than previous coronavirus variants.

Tulio de Oliveira of the South African Center for Epidemiology (Center for Epidemiological Response and Innovation / CERI), on the other hand, stresses on Twitter that there is no reason to panic, as there has not yet been an increase in the number of cases or deaths in South Africa.

Meanwhile, biophysicist Cornelius Romer fears on Twitter: “If we’re unlucky, the intensity of the courses is the same as in Delta, and therefore much more dangerous than before with the Omikron.”

important note: The information does not in any way replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized physicians. t-online content cannot and should not be used to make diagnoses or start treatment independently.

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