Covid BA.2.86 Variant

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Recent media reports, including this from CNN, scientists are struggling to understand a new highly mutated Covid BA.2.86 variant.

Dr. Jesse Bloom, who reportedly studies viral evolution at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, told CNN that the new BA.2.86 variant “has more than 30 amino acid changes to its spike protein compared with its next closest ancestor, the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron. This makes it an evolutionary jump comparable in size to that which originally gave rise to Omicron.”

“Only six sequences of BA.2.86 have been reported in four countries, but epidemiologists are worried they could represent many more because worldwide monitoring of variants has dropped off”, CNN reports.

Morten Rasmussen, a senior researcher at the Statens Serum Institut, reported saying in a statement “It is unusual for corona to change so significantly and develop 30 new mutations. The last time we saw such a big change was when Omicron appeared.”

Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reportedly cautioned that the new variant shouldn’t be cause for alarm. “I think what we are seeing is our detection mechanisms that we’ve put in place are working, right?. We are more prepared than ever to detect and respond to changes in the Covid-19 virus.”

“We are tracking this new lineage. It has mutations that do make it distinct from other lineages circulating. And then the question becomes, what does that mean?. Is it going to increase? Are we going to see more cases? Or is it going to fizzle out and not be a variant of concern?”, Dr. Cohen added to CNN.