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Omicron BA.2 and its offspring BA.2.38 cause mild infection and they are self-limiting, experts said based on a recent study noting that majority of patients infected with these variants ‘did not require hospitalisation’. Speaking on the topic that whether the virus is getting weaker with time, they also stated that “when they move from one body to another, they mutate for survival. But they have to pay the cost for it by becoming mild."

"During the analysis, we found that BA.2 is common, but its offspring BA.2.38 is also prevalent and is neck to neck with BA.2," said Dr Rajesh Karyekarte of B J Medical College (who led the study) told news agency PTI.  Karyekarte further revealed that they had done the genome sequencing of some samples from April to June and sent the report to the government and Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (Insacog). 

Noting that, the team was asked to conduct a fast study to ascertain the severity of BA.2.38, Dr Karyekarte said, “Majority of these patients had experienced mild symptoms, while only one person required oxygen support and one was brought dead. Most of them did not require admission in a hospital or any specific treatment." From this, it can be concluded that the symptoms of illness (caused by BA.2.38) were akin to BA.2 and no other symptoms were found. The overall severity of the illness was mild and it shows that vaccination helped

How the virus is changing?

 Speaking on the mutation of the virus, Dr Vaibhav Purandare, an infectious disease specialist, said, the strains such as BA.2, BA.2.38 or BA.5 or for that matter any other offspring, will keep changing. 

"When they move from one body to another, they tend to change or mutate. The virus, which has come from bats, tries to adapt to the human body and it modifies for its survival. But the strain will have to pay the cost for it by becoming mild," Dr Purandare said. 

He, however, maintained that no conclusion can be drawn about endemicity on the basis of this study. "Whatever I said about endemicity, it was my personal impression. But the only conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that the illness caused by BA.2.38 was mild in nature, with occasional mortality and fever. It remained in the upper respiratory tract, was self-limiting and the patient recovers on his own," Dr Purandare said.

 The variants will come and go. The COVID-19 disease will become endemic and it will assume the position of other infectious diseases such as swine flu or influenza, he added.

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