COVID-19 follow-up estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that a new sub-variant of Omicron is rapidly becoming prevalent in the United States. Called BA.2.12.1, little is known about this new variant, except that it is probably the most infectious version of SARS-CoV-2 to date, and experts warn that this could trigger a new wave of cases across the country.

Since the Omarron variant of SARS-CoV-2 appeared in late 2021, the virus has spread and mutated at an incredible rate. The first iteration of Omicron (B.1.1.529) took a few short weeks to become dominant in the United States before being quickly pushed out of prominence by the next sub-option, BA.1.1.

By March, another iteration of Omicron, called BA.2, had taken over the United States. BA.2 was not a new subtype of Omicron, but rather a different iteration of the same line that appeared in South Africa in late 2021.

BA.2 has been found to be about 30 percent more portable than previous iterations of Omicron that have spread across the country. But more problematic was the ability of BA.2 to avoid treatments with monoclonal antibodies previously developed for the treatment of COVID-19.

It has now been found that another iteration of Omicron is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. This variant, called BA.2.12.1, is a new mutation of unknown origin. It appeared on the CDC tracking option in early February, but exploded in nationwide growth in April.

The last one NowCast modeling by CDC estimates BA.2.12.1 represent 36.5% of those infected in the country at the end of April. In the northeastern part of the country, where BA.2.12.1 was first discovered, it is now estimated to account for up to 80 percent of all infections.

The emergence and growth of BA.2.12.1 reflects two other new Omicron subtypes that have been reported in South Africa – BA.4 and BA.5. A recent summary of the characteristics of these new variants by scientist Eric Topol shows that they are even more infectious than BA.2, with some new mutations that could allow them to re-infect those who were previously infected with early iterations of Omicron. Poplar notes that BA.4 and BA.5 are probably 10 percent more portable than BA.2, but BA.2.12.1 can be even more infectious, with a 25 percent transmission advantage over Omicron’s previous dominant variant. .

A a recently published pre-press study from scientists in Beijing, yet to be reviewed by partners, offers a first strong look at how antibodies from a previous Omicron infection interact with BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1. The results show that all three of these new Omicron subtypes may have properties that allow them to escape the immunity generated by BA.1 infection.

BA.2.12.1 has also been found to contain some unique mutations that could enhance its entry into human cells, essentially adding weight to the suspicion that it is probably the most infectious variant to date.

Of course, needless to say, all this data is evolving rapidly and it is not clear what exactly these new Omicron subtypes will do in real life. New York has is called a urinal of the United States and there has been a recent increase in hospitalizations with COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases have been officially registered in New York since the beginning of May hit the highest levels seen from January. South Africa, which is struggling with its own peak BA.4 / BA.5, is also registered the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 seen for months.

To date, there is no evidence to suggest that these new variants cause more severe disease than previous Omicron subtypes. However, small increases in hospitalizations in both New York and South Africa suggest that higher levels of infection in the community will always mean that the virus finds the most vulnerable.

Perhaps the biggest question right now about these new emerging Omicron subtypes is what to do with the variant-specific vaccine boosters. Both Moderna and Pfizer are in the advanced stages of testing an Omicron-specific mRNA booster. The companies currently hope to have these vaccines later this year, before winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but both new vaccines are designed to target Omicron’s BA.1 subtype.

IN prepress study Analysis of these emerging Omicron subtypes shows that the immune properties of BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 may lead to new waves of reinfection. And perhaps a variant-specific vaccine targeting BA.1 will not be optimal for protection against these increasingly immune-avoiding Omicron lines.

“This poses a major challenge to the currently established immunity of the herd through WT-based vaccination and BA.1 / BA.2 infection,” the new study explains. “Similarly, this observation also suggests that a vaccine based on Omicron BA.1 may not be the ideal antigen to elicit broad-spectrum protection against emerging Omicron sublines.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scheduled a meeting for the end of June to finalize the best option for new booster vaccines to target later in the year. Moderna, at the forefront of the BA.1 mRNA booster test package, is aiming to introduce the new formulation in August. But Moderna’s CEO warned that if a different sub-variant of Omicron is to be targeted, this August date will be moved to 2022 later.

Previous articleFake EDRs help hackers target cybersecurity researchers
Next articleA new breakthrough in Qubit could revolutionize quantum computing