WHO warned that COVID is not yet a disease of the past: all about the new subvariants

WHO warned that COVID is not yet a disease of the past: all about the new subvariants

Humanity today moves as if the Coronavirus that emerged in 2019 It was no longer circulating on the planet. There are no lockdowns, no travel restrictions. Nor is there a Massive use of the mask or the Cross ventilation in enclosed spaces. But the pathogen is still, evolves and gave rise to new sublineages of the Ómicron variant.

Between the second half of July and the first half of August, more than 1.4 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported worldwide. That is, there was a 63% increase over the previous 28 days.

These last two weeks the World Health Organization (WHO) had to update the classification system of the sublineages of Ómicron: it happened to have 7 in monitoring and 3 in the “of interest” category. Experts from the United States and Argentina explained to Infobae what the current state of the pandemic implies.

The last two to join the list have generated concern in experts investigating the evolution of the virus. One of them is EG.5, popularly called Eris, which was declared as “of interest”, and low risk. Already most COVID cases in the U.S. UU are for Eris. It was detected in 52 countries, including Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico.

But now the sublineage BA.2.86 appeared and in a few days became one of the variants in circulation of monitoring for the health agency because it is striking that it has more than 30 additional mutations with respect to the first version of Ómicron.

It was detected on July 24 in COVID patients in Israel. She was then identified on July 31 in Denmark. This week they found it in patients in the United States and the United Kingdom.

BA.2.86 is the “most surprising subvariant the world has witnessed since the emergence of Ómicron,” he said. François Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology and Director of the UCL Institute of Genetics in the UK.

The sequences loaded with the sublineage “show some genetic diversity, suggesting that the lineage has been circulating for months,” he said. The point of concern is that most of the mutations of the new subvariant are in the spike protein, and it may be able to evade more antibodies generated by having the infection or by vaccines.

Another view has the senior researcher in immunology of the Conicet from Argentina, the doctor George Geffner: “The number of mutations is striking and that’s why it’s good to have a global monitoring. But the data is still very preliminary. It remains to be seen how these BA.2.86 mutations impact their biological behavior. This is about its infectious capacity, its transmissibility, its ability to evade the immune response and severity of the disease it causes. We need more data,” he said when asked by Infobae.

In this current context, Dr. Geffner -interim director of the Institute of Biomedical Research in Retroviruses and AIDS (INBIRS) of Conicet and the University of Buenos Aires-, explained that “although there is no health emergency, people still have to consider that the infection continues to be diagnosed and deaths continue, even in a greater proportion than deaths from influenza.” In the last 28-day period reported by WHO, 2,300 people died from COVID in the world.

“These new sublineages have the potential to evolve into a new variant that is a before and after in terms of our immunological memory. It could not only evade antibodies but also the memory response by T cells. This last response is the one that mediates in the protection against serious diseases, “he said. “Therefore, it would be worrying if the virus manages to efficiently evade the T response. This is very difficult to predict,” he added.

As measures, Geffner insisted on strengthening genomic surveillance of the coronavirus. “We must not abandon the monitoring of circulating subvariants. Although severe cases and mortality decreased compared to previous years, thanks to vaccination, today at this stage of the pandemic It is duewould do tests in some important hospital institutions to know what percentage of respiratory symptoms are due to the coronavirus”, Geffner said.

Also, he advised, “more monitoring of wastewater in communities should be done, to track the coronavirus, which has already given us unpleasant surprises. We must continue to study the coronavirus around the world rigorously.”

Meanwhile, the doctor Humberto Debatof the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) and Proyecto País, of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, considered that the WHO Virus Evolution Expert Group currently takes into account the sublineages of Ómicron in terms of three factors. Currently, there is talk of monitoring variant and variant of interest.

As for the detection of sublineage BA.2.86 “it is very relevant,” said Debat. “It has 58 additional mutations in the spike protein with respect to the original virus from Wuhan, China. It is derived from the sublineage BA.2. Some of these mutations would confer greater immune escape than other versions of the virus. But a priori it is not possible to know if it is more transmissible. There is a stir in the community of evolving experts. We will see what results the next studies have,” he said.

The risks of the BA.2.86 sublineage are that “its mutations confer a transmission advantage due to the ability to evade immunity, and that will lead to more cases of people with COVID-19. There is also a risk that this sublineage differs sufficiently from booster vaccines to compromise their efficacy,” he said. Infobae The Doctor Amesh Adalja, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Security and Adjunct Professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

For Adelja, the population should take into account vaccination with reinforcements: “New variants will continue to emerge because it is an endemic virus that will not be eradicated. The fundamental thing today is to remember that variants may cause infection, but they will not be able to cause serious disruption to society, due to the immunity of the population, as well as the availability of antiviral therapy.”

At the moment, in terms of vaccines, the company Moderna reported that its updated COVID vaccine in 2023 showed a significant increase in neutralizing antibodies against the EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 variants. Results of studies on the BA.2.86 sublineage have not yet been disseminated.


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