One study has suggested that a mutation in COVID’s Omicron sub-variant could dodge the immune systems of vaccinated and unvaccinated people and drive reinfections.
Currently, BA.5 is the dominant global Omicron variant and showed a “substantial” ability to evade immune protection compared to previous sub-variants, according to a report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
However, BA.4.6, a mutation of BA.4, has recently increased in prevalence in some regions where BA.5 is dominant, including in WEoutlines the relationship.
The variant was detected in more than 12% of the new ones COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is not yet known whether it can escape acquired antibodies through a previous COVID infection or vaccination, however a small study outlined in the report suggests it could.
Blood sample data from 35 people who had recently been infected with COVID or vaccinated and augmented with the original Moderna vaccine indicated that antibodies against BA.4.6 were approximately twice as low as those for BA.5.
“This suggests that Omicron continues to evolve and continues to evolve in a way that becomes more transmissible and more effective in evading vaccines and immune responses,” said study author Dr Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology. and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
“The results are actually a harbinger of new variants that could be even more troubling,” he added.
The study participants were infected with the Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 sub-variants.
It remains to be determined whether BA.4.6 can circumvent the immune protection gained by BA.5 infection or vaccine boosters containing immunogens that fight BA.5.
“Viral Evolution with Steroids”
Experts are also keeping an eye on other Omicron sub-variants that are circulating.
BQ.1 accounts for more than 5% of new cases in the United States, up from 3% the week before and 1-2% the week before, according to the CDC.
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A similar picture can be seen with BA.7, which accounts for more than 5% of new cases in the United States, compared to 4% the previous week and 3% the week before.
“It is amazing to see how the virus continues to mutate at such a rapid rate,” said Dr. Barouch, adding, “This is essentially the viral evolution of steroids.”
The report concluded that the virus continues to evolve.
“The virus is diversifying very rapidly,” said Bill Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.