A bioinformatician at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel in Switzerland shared some insights on the origins of BA.2. Cornelius Romer says the BA.2 variant likely arose from a common ancestor around the same time as the original BA.1 Omicron. He therefore considers the newer variant a “sibling” rather than a “descendant.”
An evolutionary virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator had another take. Jesse Bloom hypothesizes that BA.1 dominated first simply because it started spreading earlier. He notes that BA.2 is now catching up.
Early estimates by Denmark’s State Serum Institute suggest Omicron BA.2 is about 50% more transmissible than the BA.1 strain. The United Kingdom Health Security Agency suggests that BA.2 is more transmissible but only 30% higher than BA.1. Experts are however saying that BA.2 will not likely cause a spike in severe infections.
The UK Health Security Agency also estimates that existing vaccines are equally effective at preventing symptomatic diseases caused by both BA.2 and BA.1. Their data is based on a relatively small number of cases though.
The World Health Organization expressed concern that the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant is now in five African countries. Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, and South Africa have registered the sub-variant. Omicron BA.2 is already overtaking the original BA.1 Omicron as the dominant strain in Denmark. Both strains likely came from a common strand although BA.1 just started spreading earlier. Current vaccines in the market are equally effective in combatting both strains of the coronavirus.
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