New COVID Sub-Variant of Omicron In India Maybe Alarming, Says Expert

As a roller coaster continues for the number of COVID cases in India, an Israeli expert said that a new sub-variant of Omicron found in India could be dangerous.

The new sub-version of Omicron BA 2.75 has been detected in about 10 Indian states. According to an Israeli expert, this type can be dangerous” in nature. However, the Indian health ministry is yet to officially confirm the detection of the subversion in the country.

In a series of tweets, with
the Central Virology Laboratory at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Dr Shay Fleishon said 85 sequences from eight countries have so far been uploaded to NextStrain, an open-source platform for genomic data.

It includes 69 from India: Delhi (1), Haryana (6), Himachal Pradesh (3), Jammu (1), Karnataka (10), Madhya Pradesh (5), Maharashtra (27), Telangana (2), North Pradesh (1), and West Bengal (13).

Besides India, tensions have also been reported by seven other countries: Japan (1), Germany (2), the UK (6), Canada (2), the US (2), Australia (1), and New Zealand (2). ), according to NextStrain data. “So far none of the broadcasts based on scenes outside India has been tracked,” Fleation wrote on Twitter.

While he added that it is “too early to tell” whether BA.2.75 will be the next major version, he added that the subversion “could be dangerous as it could signal an upcoming trend”. Fleischer explained that in recent months, second-generation variants based on the Omicron sub-lineages have been trending, namely BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.

It was based on the Omicron lineage with mutations in the S1 segment of the spike protein and specifically in the part of the spike protein that the virus uses to attach to and gain entry to cells. However, the increase observed in these sub-variants is “at a level that is not seen in other variants of concerns in the second generation variants”.

Furthermore, so far these second-generation variants have been found within a region only in a few cases. This is the first time the second-generation version of Omicron has spread to multiple regions. “The fact that such a distinct second-generation version could be successful inter-hosted is worrying. This means that even if BA.2.75 will not succeed, and even if it will, so will the second generation over time.” Could be better,” Fleishon said.

The sub-version is worth “keeping a close eye on”, said Imperial College London scientist Thomas Peacock on Twitter.

BA.2.75 was also flagged off by the Bloom Lab at the Fred Hutch Research Institute in the US.

In a tweet posted this week, the institute said the sub-version “is worth tracking, as it has appreciable antigenic changes relative to its parent BA.2”. The lab pointed to two mutations as key: G446S and R493Q.

“G446S is one of the most potent escape sites by antibodies elicited by current vaccines that still neutralize BA.2. So for immunity from vaccines or early infections, adding G446S to BA.2 will reduce neutralization,” said Lab.

“However, G446S will have less effect on antibodies from people with prior BA.1 breakthrough infection. Therefore, the antigenic advantage of BA.2.75 relative to BA.2 will be most pronounced in people who have not had BA.1 exposure, It said.

It means that “BA.2.75 will have an antibody escape that is identical to BA.4/5 concerning current vaccines”. The R493Q mutation, on the other hand, increases the virus’s ability to bind to ACE2 – the protein that the COVID virus uses to enter cells.

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