The new version of the COVID Omicron variant, BA.2, is a sneaky little bastard

There is a new form of Omicron variant of coronavirus—Something that experts say is difficult to distinguish from Delta variant using standard polymerase chain reaction, or PCR testing.

The emergence of this sneaky “BA.2” sub-variable – “downline”, as the scientific term is – is the latest development in the still-evolving crisis caused by the Omicron BA.1 baseline. after health officials in South Africa new lineage confirmation, with dozens of its major mutations, two weeks ago.

The indistinguishable BA.2 sub-line is also a powerful reminder to unvaccinated for vaccination, and it’s not taboo to be healthy. There’s a lot we don’t know about Omicron and its subtypes, but early signs point to top vaccines. still working fine against them. And, of course, all the stabs work even better with an enhanced shot.

Scientists first discovered sneaky BA.2 a few days ago after gene-sequencing a series of test samples that officials had South Africa, Australia and Canada collectibles. To date, subvariables have been identified in 30 countries and six continents.

“You can still detect it by PCR, but you can’t distinguish it from the dominant Delta strain.” Rob Knight, head of the genetic computing lab at the University of California, San Diego, told The Daily Beast. In other words, a PCR test can tell you you have COVID, but it can Not tells you you have specifically captured BA.2.

To be fair, being indistinguishable can be a problem. If Omicron and its sublines become more deadly than Delta and its sublines, it’s really important to know exactly how many Omicron cases there are as a subset of all COVID cases. . That is, how far Omicron has “penetrated” into the population, to borrow epidemiological terms.

Lawrence Gostin, a global health expert at Georgetown University, told The Daily Beast: “It’s possible that the so-called ‘stealth variant’ could mean more intrusiveness of worrying variants. this than we realize. That is not to say that we are powerless to assess the potential increase provided by Omicron in cases that appear to have occurred around the world. It do that is, we are playing catch-up as we tailor the PCR tests and perform more detailed gene sequencing of the samples.

Dr. Lawrence Gostin calls it a “stealth variant”.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

To understand how BA.2 could be hiding behind Delta, thus potentially obscuring the true extent of Omicron’s spread, you must understand how PCR tests work. PCR consists of a latent virus sample and a “primer” that the test creator has tailored to encourage the virus to replicate. Place the test piece in the primer and wait a moment. If the virus multiplies, you have tested positive.

This is the benefit. PCR tests are not good at distinguishing one particular strain from another. You can design primers to match certain unique attributes of the lineage you’re most worried about, but because many lineages share genetic features, the test may show positive for virus but inconclusive lineage.

The experts initially hoped that we could use the same PCR test that we used to detect the old Alpha strain of SARS-CoV-2 to find Omicron. That’s because both Alpha and Omicron share the same genetic signature. According to Niema Moshiri, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego: “The loss of amino acids 69 and 70 in the Spike gene.

This is the problem. “Omicron’s new sub-line, BA.2, doesn’t have this removal,” Moshiri told The Daily Beast. Guess which lineage also ignore delete this? That’s right: Delta. So lab technicians who are using old Alpha tests to look for Omicrons may be missing BA.2 cases. Meanwhile, Delta search technologies can also inadvertently count a bunch of BA.2 cases.

The ambiguity in testing can slow us down as we try to deal with how bad Omicron is and how and where it spreads. But it won’t actually stop us from understanding or resolving newlines and its sublines.

After all, we still rely on detailed gene sequencing, as opposed to rapid PCR, to really look at and track the novel coronavirus. “With sequencing, we will be able to determine the lineage, regardless of BA.1 or BA.2,” explains Moshiri.

But sequencing is more expensive than testing and takes more time. “It is a matter of significance,” said Knight.

However, BA.2’s inability to mask the sequencing is why Keith Jerome, a University of Washington virologist, says he’s not that worried. Jerome’s lab detected the first three Omicron cases in Washington State last week. Jerome said Washington does 14% of the tests, so BA.2 can’t stay hidden for long. “This sub-variant of Omicron can hide for a day or two but if it becomes widespread we will find it through random sequencing.”

All that said, yes, BA.2 is a problem. How big of a problem depends on the severity of the Omicron after further study. “It is possible that these variations could be seen as a new normal after a pandemic, like the flu, in which case testing — while important for detecting hotspots and assessing or Predictable burden—maybe not so important,” Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist at the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida, told The Daily Beast.

In any case, BA.2 is a problem with obvious solutions. New PCR primers. Sequence more. And, as always, masks, vaccines and Rocket propulsion. Stephanie James, head of the COVID testing lab at Regis University in Colorado, told The Daily Beast: “I know everyone is ‘excited’ about Omicron. “But variations are expected by the scientific community. Advice too–Get vaccinated and wear a mask”. The new version of the COVID Omicron variant, BA.2, is a sneaky little bastard


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