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More concerning than Omicron BA.4, BA.5: What could lead to the next COVID surge


Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 will definitely not cause another COVID surge, but we need to remain vigilant, an IMA official said on Tuesday. However, the official further warned that the bigger concern now is whether a completely new variant will emerge from a different branch of the genomic tree. 

What are Omicron BA.4 and BA.5? 

BA.4 and BA.5 are not new viruses, rather, these are just sub-lineages of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 infection, Dr Jayadevan, Indian Medical Association’s national task force’s co-chairman told news agency ANI.

“Basically, Omicron took off from one branch of the genomic tree and these are the smaller branches of Omicron itself so they are not new viruses. We know that this virus is continuously adapting to the human host in order to escape our immunity and also to travel faster between people.”

Can the Omicron subvariants cause another COVID surge? 

Omicron took off at a much higher rate in many countries, including India. And, South Africa’s experiences reassure us that the two sub-lineages are not going to cause a large-scale problem if we are careful enough. He said, “BA.4 and BA.5 caused a surge in cases a couple of weeks ago, but they came down rapidly. They did not go as high as the Omicron did back in November, December last year.”

Hence, it seems sub-variants of Omicron (BA.4 and BA.5) are not going to cause a surge in cases, still, we need to be vigilant, he said. 

The concern lies elsewhere… 

Noting that the Omicron variant has already run its course, the expert pointed out that now the concern remains whether a completely new variant will emerge from a different genomic tree. 

“We are more concerned about, will there be a whole new variant coming from a completely different branch of the genomic tree? And that is the concern we have because now Omicron has run its course for about six, seven months since November.”

“We should be on the lookout for anything new, anything unusual, unusual clusters must go for sequencing,” he warned.

BA.4 and BA.5 are subvariants of the Omicron variant circulating globally. These were reported first from South Africa earlier this year and are now reported from several other countries. These variants have not been associated with disease severity or increased hospitalization.

The first case of BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been found in Tamil Nadu and Telangana respectively, confirmed the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) on Sunday.

(With inputs from agencies)



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