'Centaurus' Omicron Variant Is Raising Concerns

India experiencing 'exponential increase' with BA.2.75
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2022 6:43 AM CDT
'Centaurus' Omicron Variant Is Raising Concerns
Job aspirants wearing face masks listen to an official after they arrived for interviews organized by the state run employability center in Kochi, Kerala state, India, on Friday.   (AP Photo/ R S Iyer)

(Newser) – Another super contagious omicron variant has been detected in the US. Dubbed "Centaurus," the BA.2.75 variant was first detected in India in early May and is now spreading rapidly there. "It's still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions" but "it does look like, especially in India, the rates of transmission are showing kind of that exponential increase," Matthew Binnicker, the Mayo Clinic's director of clinical virology, tells the AP. In India, BA.2.75 is quickly overtaking BA.4 and BA.5, which are said to be as transmissible as measles and together make up more than 70% of COVID cases in the US, per WTOP.

Like BA.4 and BA.5, the variant—which has also been detected in nine other countries, including Canada, the UK, Germany, and Australia—is thought to have evolved from BA.2. But it has a large number of mutations differentiating it from earlier omicron variants, including in the spike protein. These mutations—Forbes has the details—could make it more efficient at binding to cells and evading antibodies from past infection or a vaccine, though more research is needed, per the AP. "It is definitely a potential candidate for what comes after BA.5," Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, tells the Guardian.

It's too early to determine whether the variant can cause more severe disease than other omicron variants. But the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics has found infected people either show mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, per the Independent. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control designated BA.2.75 a "variant under monitoring" on Thursday. The World Health Organization is also monitoring the variant. In the meantime, scientists are urging people to get vaccinated and boosted. With increases in vaccination, "the rates of people ending up in the hospital and dying have significantly decreased," says Binnicker. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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