Once again, an omicron subvariant has exhibited the ability to evade the immune system, posing a hazard to both vaccinated and previously infected persons.
BA.4.6, according to a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, may be responsible for reinfections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.4.6 accounted for slightly over 13% of new Covid infections in the United States as of Friday, whereas BA.5 was discovered in roughly 68% of new cases.
As per NBC News, these subvariants are by no means the only strains that specialists around the world are monitoring. Other omicron subvariants that have sparked the curiosity and apprehension of scientists include: BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and BF.7. (As it turns out, this three account for approximately 5% of new U.S. cases.)
No longer is Covid identified by Greek letters such as alpha and delta. Since the appearance of the omicron variant, omicron subvariants have separated into their own subvariants.
Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and author of the study, remarked, “It’s amazing to see how quickly the virus continues to evolve.” Essentially, this is viral evolution on steroids.
There were only 35 participants in Barouch’s study, all of whom had either received the Covid vaccine or an omicron infection. The majority, regardless of previous infection, had received at least three doses of the Covid vaccination. Blood testing revealed the presence of neutralizing antibodies against BA. 4.6 were approximately twofold lower than BA antibodies.5.
“This suggests that omicron continues to evolve in a manner that makes it more transmissible and effective at evading vaccines and immune responses,” he explained. “The results actually portend the emergence of other variations that may be even more alarming.”
Viruses undergo random mutations, but alterations that provide the virus with an edge over the immune system, vaccinations, or therapies tend to persist. Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “The virus is quickly diversifying.”