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Home / Science / Health /  Covid alert! Another new variant is spreading. 10 things to know about omicron BA.4.6
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London: A subvariant of the omicron COVID, BA.4.6, which has been quickly gaining traction in the US, is now confirmed to be spreading in the UK.

The latest briefing document on COVID variants from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) noted that during the week beginning August 14, BA.4.6 accounted for 3.3 per cent of samples in the UK. Similarly, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.4.6 now accounts for more than 9 per cent of recent cases across the US. The variant has also been identified in several other countries around the world.

What we know about BA.4.6, and should we be worried?

1) BA.4.6 is a descendant of the BA.4 variant of omicron. 

2) BA.4 was first detected in January 2022 in South Africa and has since spread around the world alongside the BA.5 variant.

3) It is not entirely clear how BA.4.6 has emerged, but it’s possible it could be a recombinant variant.

4) While BA.4.6 will be similar to BA.4 in many ways, it carries a mutation to the spike protein, a protein on the surface of the virus which allows it to enter our cells.

5) This mutation, R346T, has been seen in other variants and is associated with immune evasion, meaning it helps the virus to escape antibodies acquired from vaccination and prior infection.

6) Fortunately, omicron infections generally cause less serious illness, and we’ve seen fewer deaths with omicron than with earlier variants. 

7) Indeed, there have been no reports yet that this variant is causing more severe symptoms.

8) BA.4.6 appears to be even better at evading the immune system than BA.5, the currently dominant variant. Although this information is based on a preprint (a study that is yet to be peer-reviewed), other emerging data supports this.

9) The University of Oxford has reported that people who had received three doses of Pfizer’s original COVID vaccine produce fewer antibodies in response to BA.4.6 than to BA.4 or BA.5. This is worrying because it suggests that COVID vaccines might be less effective against BA.4.6.

10) The emergence of BA.4.6 and other new variants is concerning. But vaccination continues to offer good protection against severe disease, and is still the best weapon we have to fight COVID.

-With inputs from PTI

 

 

 

 

 

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