July 18, 2022 – Will Omicron’s new sub-variant, BA.2.75, be the next to worry about?
It was first found in early June in India. As of July 17, he had been found in 15 countries, including seven states in the United States, according to an Arkansas State University professor who took the variant.
The World Health Organization says it is watch variant closely.
Infectious disease experts say there is no cause for alarm – yet – but the variant should be watched.
“Although detected in many other countries [besides India]there is no sign that it is spreading [in those countries]says Eric Topol, MD, editor of Medscape, WebMD’s sister site for healthcare professionals, and executive vice president of Scripps Research. “Any concerns about this variant seem misplaced, at least at this stage.”
“I wouldn’t panic yet,” agrees Rajendram Rajnarayanan, PhD, assistant dean of research and associate professor at Arkansas State University, who is taking the BA.2.75.
But he worries about its spread. At present, he says, it is spreading faster than the BA.5 variant in India. He predicts that BA.2.75 will then spread further in the UK (where it has already arrived) and then increase in the US. “This is exactly the pattern we observed with all the other variants,” he says.
As of July 17, he had tracked only 14 cases in seven states: California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
By September, it could peak in the United States, he says. “Right now, BA.2.75. seems to be the fastest of them all” in terms of spread. But like other variants, it could follow the 2-month cycle and start declining by October, says Rajnarayanan.
In a laboratory analysis published on Twitter, Professor Yunlong Cao of Peking University found that BA.2.75 is more likely than BA.2.12.1 (which, before BA.5, was the dominant variant in the United States) to evade detection by the immune system.
But lab analysis “is only half the equation,” says Peter Chin-Hong, MD, professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. Many other things affect the propagation of a variant. “It’s too early to tell from a virus perspective what’s going to happen,” he says of the new variant.
While infectious disease experts debate the course of 2.75, some are also debating variant naming. The World Health Organization uses letters from the Greek alphabet to name some variants.
But on July 1, Twitter user Xabier Ostale, who is not an infectious disease professional, apparently tired of waiting for BA.2.75 to get a Greek name and took on the task. In a tweet, he dubbed the new variant Centaurus, after a constellation and from Greek mythology describing a half-human, half-horse creature. The name stuck and is now popular on Twitter and in news reports.
Having a name, instead of a string of letters and numbers, helps convey messages to the public, says Rajnarayanan, who has started using #Centaurus on his Twitter posts. He encourages the World Health Organization to name all variants. “You want to make sure people have something easy to do,” he says.