A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, known as BA.2, has been detected in South Africa. This variant stands out due to its over 100 mutations, with more than 30 of them occurring on the spike protein. Although it is not currently widespread, health authorities in South Africa are closely monitoring the situation.
So far, the BA.2 variant has been found in nine sequences, all originating from South Africa. Samples were collected from COVID-19 patients in three districts, raising concerns among experts about its divergent nature and the possibility of silent spread within the local population.
While the BA.2 variant emerged last year, it has struggled to compete with other circulating variants. However, there is a chance that it may acquire the necessary mutations to become a significant threat. Many of the mutations on this variant are concentrated in crucial regions of the spike protein, including two large deletions in the antigenic supersite.
One major concern regarding the BA.2 variant is its potential to evade immunity from previous infections or vaccinations. At this point, there is limited information available on its transmissibility and pathogenic properties. To monitor the situation, South African health authorities have increased testing and genomic sequencing efforts.
It is important to note that there has been limited news coverage on the COVID-19 situation in South Africa, which could potentially obscure the true extent of the situation. Additionally, opinions from local experts should be approached with caution, as they have previously underestimated the severity of the Omicron variant despite its global impact.
The BA.2 variant has not yet been officially named. It is crucial to recognize that the BA.2.86 and JN.1 variants are rapidly evolving and giving rise to new mutations and sub-lineages. While many of these sub-lineages may not become dominant, there are some that have the potential to do so.
Thailand Medical News will continue to provide updates on the BA.2 variant as more data becomes available. It is expected that this year will bring forth more concerning variants with unique features and properties, including potentially more virulent and pathogenic strains.