Arab News Japan
DUBAI: Japanese research recently showed that the BA.2 virus, a subvariant of the Omicron coronavirus variant, may cause serious illness and spread faster, much like the older Delta variant.
The BA.2 subvariant is also appearing to escape the immunity provided by vaccines, however, a booster shot could make illness after infection 74% less likely.
University of Tokyo researcher Kei Sato conducted the study and argued that the new subvariant should not be considered a type of Omicron. He also said it should be monitored more closely.
Speaking to CNN, Sato said BA.2 is also known as the ‘Stealth Omicron,’ since it doesn’t show up on PCR tests. “Labs therefore have to take an extra step and sequence the virus to find this variant,” he explained.
The researcher said that countries need to start out by establishing a method to detect BA.2 a first step to avoiding its widespread.
The findings were posted on Wednesday on the bioRxiv server, before peer review. This pre-print allowed the research to be shared quickly, without the additional layer of review by independent medical experts.
The subvariant has already highly mutated compared to the original COVID-19 virus that emerged in China’s Wuhan. It is also about 30% more contagious than Omicron, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
BA.2 has been detected in 74 countries. According to WHO’s weekly report, the subvariant has become dominant in at least 10 countries including China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Denmark, Bangladesh, Guam, Brunei, Montenegro and the Philippines.
Researchers are still unsure of the severity of BA.2 as hospitalizations continue to decline in most countries where it is visible. However, in Denmark, hospitalizations and deaths are rising, according to WHO.