NewsOmikron: "BA.2" on the rise - RKI gives details...

Omikron: "BA.2" on the rise – RKI gives details about Germany

The highly infectious omicron variant is currently driving up the number of people infected with corona. Now a sub-type is worrying the authorities.

Update from Tuesday, January 25th, 2022, 1:30 p.m.: The “BA.2” subvariant of the omicron mutant continues to spread in Europe. Scandinavia is particularly affected, but also Great Britain. But how is the situation in Germany? Has the “BA.2” variant already mixed in with the common “BA.1” variant from Omikron, which is now dominant?

When asked by the Frankfurter Rundschau, the RKI refers to the current data situation for “BA.2”. The weekly report of January 20 states: “Almost all infections with omicrons detected in Germany to date” have been “assigned to subline BA.1”. According to the Robert Koch Institute, “no strong increase in the proportion of BA.2 among all omicron detections, as has happened in other countries, can currently be observed”. The development of the next few weeks remains to be seen.

“The spread of omicron is increasing in all federal states or is already the variant that has prevailed.”

Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in the weekly report of January 20th

So far, the data on “BA.2” has been relatively sparse. Research is being pushed forward at full speed. “What surprised us is the speed with which this subvariant, which circulates widely in Asia, has spread to Denmark,” explains Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva. The spread is occurring at a rapid pace, but that is no reason to panic in corona politics, emphasizes Tom Peacock, virologist at Imperial College in London: “Very early observations from India and Denmark indicate that there is no dramatic difference in severity compared to BA.1.”

Omikron-Variante

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The omicron variant now dominates the corona infection process in Germany. (archive photo)

Corona: Omicron variant “BA.2” circulating in Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden

Update from Sunday, January 23rd, 2022, 11.30 a.m .: The newly discovered subvariant of Omicron continues to make headlines. “BA.2” is now to be researched at high speed. So far, hardly anything is known about the “stealth cloak variant”, as it is also called (see update from January 22nd, 2022). In addition to Denmark, the variant is also circulating in Great Britain. The health authorities there have now responded – and classified the mutant as a “variant under observation”.

The background is the suspicion that “BA.2” could be even more infectious, i.e. more transmissible, than the actual omicron variant “BA.1”. The British daily Mirror also reports that the “invisibility variant” does not appear to lead to more deadly Covid 19 courses than “BA.1”.

To date, 426 cases of “BA.2” infections have been registered in Great Britain. In addition to the UK and Denmark, cases have also been reported in India, Singapore and Sweden.

Corona: “Stealth cloak variant” discovered by Omikron – PCR tests flying blind

Update from Saturday, January 22nd, 2022, 12:00 p.m.: In Denmark, a subvariant of the omicron mutant already dominates the infection process (see first report). It is possible that this corona variant will soon prevail in Germany. So far, little is known about “BA.2″. In an interview with RTL, physician Christoph Specht explained what distinguishes the variant from the conventional omicron variant: “BA.2 has 17 mutations that distinguish it from the previous omicron variant. That’s quite a lot.” It is still uncertain whether “BA.2” causes other or more severe symptoms of Covid-19. “It’s thought to be better at evading the immune system than the ‘BA.1’ variant. That would mean that a vaccination or a previous infection with another variant would be even less able to prevent you from becoming infected,” explained Specht.

The new sub-variant of Omicron is also known as the “stealth variant”. The background to the designation is that the mutant can rarely be detected by PCR tests. According to Specht, PCR tests cannot distinguish the delta from the “BA.2” omicron variant.

Omicron subtype “BA.2” on the rise: mutant is already dominant in Denmark

First report from Friday, January 21, 2022, 3:00 p.m.: Paris/Copenhagen – The rapid spread of the highly infectious omicron variant is making life difficult for many countries around the world. Germany is currently particularly affected, where the incidence value exceeded the threshold of 700 for the first time on Friday (January 21, 2022).

Meanwhile, a new omicron subvariant has attracted the attention of scientists. As announced by French Health Minister Olivier Véran, the characteristics of the subtype of the coronavirus known as “BA.2” have not yet been adequately researched. “BA.2” is currently not changing the infection situation, added Véran. Like the delta variant, the omicron variant also produced “little brothers” during its replication: subtypes that differ from the original genome in only one or two mutations. The variant has already been detected in several countries, mainly in Europe.

Omicron subvariant BA.2: Figures from Denmark make you sit up and take notice

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not yet differentiate between Omikron and the sub-variant “BA.2.” However, the latest data from Denmark make us sit up and take notice. In the country where the number of daily infections has been rising again for a few days, “BA.2” is said to be the predominant corona variant.

Maskenpflicht in Dänemark

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After two months without any restrictions in the country, masks are compulsory again in Denmark. The Corona Pass must also be shown at concerts or in the restaurant.

The proportion of infections with the “BA.2” variant at the end of 2021 in Denmark was almost 20 percent. But now “BA.2” accounts for almost half of all corona infections. And it looks as if this development will continue in the future.

It is also noteworthy that “BA.2” differs to a large extent from the previous main sub-variant “BA.1”. As the geneticist Ulrich Elling describes on Twitter, a total of 17 mutations can be seen in the “BA.2” variant. “BA.1” and “BA.2” are almost completely identical in one half of the genome, but very different in the other half.

Omicron subvariant “BA.2” overrepresented in boosted

According to Ulrich Elling, the data from Denmark also indicate that the subvariant “BA.2” could be overrepresented, especially among those who were boosted. That would explain why the number of infections in Denmark continues to rise despite the high vaccination and booster rate.

However, it is still unknown how well an infection with BA.1 also protects against infection with “BA.2”. “We have an international situation in which the omicron variant circulates heavily, it is normal that we find sub-variants over time,” the French health authority said. The decisive factor is whether “BA.2” has different characteristics in terms of contagiousness, the immune reaction or the severity of the disease progression. (tu/cs with dpa/AFP)

Rubric picture: © Davor Puklavec / PIXSELL / Imago Images

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