Stealth Omicron: Here’s what we know so far about the new subtype of the Omicron variant of COVID-19
- A subvariant of
OmicronCOVID-19 variant is reportedly spreading in 40 countries including India.
- Denmark has been listed as the most affected country with 79% of the cases detected so far.
- According to experts,
COVID-19vaccination is the only key to protect yourself from the new variants.
AdvertisementA newly discovered subvariant of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, named as
The UK Health Service Agency (UKHSA) has already termed the subvariant as ‘variant under investigation’ and also said that it is a level below the status ‘variant of concern’ by World Health Organization (WHO).
At least 400 cases of the Stealth Omicron have been detected till January 10 in the UK. However, according to the PANGO directory of the Coronaviruses,which is regularly updated by scientists from Oxford, Edinburgh and Cambridge, Denmark has been listed as the most affected country with 79% of the cases detected so far.
The list further ranks Great Britain with 6% cases, followed by India (5%), Sweden (2%), and Singapore (2%).
“In India we are already seeing this substrain in our genomic testing. The symptoms and treatment are the same as other substrains, like BA.1. Also, the vaccine efficacy of BA.2 is also the same as other subvariants,” Dr Laxman Jessani, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals in Navi Mumbai told Indian Express.
Is the new subvariant more severe than the Omicron?
Dr. Minal Sircar, director of pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Noida, said, “ The stealth omicron is a sub-lineage known as BA.2 of the dominant and highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant. A greater spread of any virus means potentially more mutations, which holds true for this variant as well.”
Commenting on the severity of the new subvariant, Meera Chand, incident director at UKHSA, said in a statement, “ It is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate, so it's to be expected that we will continue to see new variants emerge as the pandemic goes on. So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1.”
Can the subvariant escape the RT-PCR test?
The RT-PCR tests done at the labs detect the spike gene, which is the protein that tells us whether it is the variant of the COVID-19 or not, through sequencing. Experts believe that the subvariant doesn’t escape the RT-PCR test. “The way the variant was confirmed was by seeing if there was a S gene drop out for BA.1. In BA.2, there is no S gene drop out, it would be difficult to confirm if it is BA.2 or some other variant without a full genome sequencing,” further said Dr Sircar.
How can we remain protected?
According to experts, COVID-19 vaccination is the only key to protect yourself from the new variants. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid, in a statement, said, “I encourage you to give yourself and your loved ones the best protection possible and get boosted now.”
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