Home / News / World /  Next COVID wave to be led by…: Expert who detected Omicron BA.4, BA.5 speaks on new variant
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Stepping into the third year of the pandemic, we have seen at least 3 COVID waves and each of them was led by a new variant. However, scientists are of the opinion that with the virus evolving, the same variant is capable of causing multiple waves. For example, Omicron is causing waves with BA.1, BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4 & BA.5.

The comment comes at a time when South Africa may be entering a fifth COVID wave earlier than expected owing to the rise in infections that seems to be driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants. The World Health Organization (WHO) last month added the sub-lineages to its monitoring list.

Owing to this, South Africa-based epidemiologist Tulio de Oliveira, who was the first to confirm the emergence of Omicron BA.4 & BA.5, pointed out that it is also time to reconsider variant evolution.

With more than 100,000 official deaths from Covid-19, and three times that if excess death data is taken into account, South Africa is the worst hit country in Africa. Meanwhile, only 30% of the entire South African population has been vaccinated against coronavirus

Omicron BA.4, BA.5 can dodge antibodies from earlier infection

Earlier on Sunday, a new study revealed that Omicron sublineages - BA.4 and BA.5 can dodge antibodies from earlier infection well enough to trigger a new wave. However, the good news is they are far less able to thrive in the blood of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

For the study, they took blood samples from 39 participants previously infected by Omicron when it first showed up at the end of last year. Fifteen were vaccinated, while the other 24 were not.

"The vaccinated group showed about a 5-fold higher neutralisation capacity ... and should be better protected," said the study, a pre-print of which was released over the weekend.

In the unvaccinated samples, there was an almost eightfold decrease in antibody production when exposed to BA.4 and BA.5, compared with the original BA.1 Omicron lineage. Blood from the vaccinated people showed a threefold decrease.

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