Why a highly mutated coronavirus variant has scientists on alert

Why a highly mutated coronavirus variant has scientists on alert

Nature reports:

Researchers are racing to determine whether a highly mutated coronavirus variant that has popped up in three continents will be a global concern — or much ado about nothing.

Several laboratories detected the variant last week, and it has been named BA.2.86. Although the lineage seems to be exceedingly rare, it is very different from other circulating variants and carries numerous changes to its spike protein, a key focus of the body’s immune attack on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

To many scientists, the emergence of BA.2.86 is reminiscent of the early days of the Omicron variant in late 2021, when scientists in southern Africa noticed a weird-looking lineage that quickly went global. “There’s a little bit of déjà vu all over again,” says Adam Lauring, a virologist and infectious-disease physician at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, whose lab identified one person infected with BA.2.86.

Successive COVID-19 waves and booster vaccine roll-outs mean global immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is higher and broader than ever, and most scientists do not expect BA.2.86 to have the same impact as Omicron’s arrival. “There’s good reason to think it won’t be like the Omicron wave, but it’s early days,” Lauring adds. [Continue reading…]

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