Monday, August 8, 2022

What we know about 2 new Omicron subtypes: BA.4, BA.5 in Canada – National | Nation World News

The World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring two new COVID-19 subvariants of Omicron, the highly infectious variant of the concern that is now dominant around the world.

Since January, more than 300 cases of BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages have been reported in several countries, according to data from cov-lineages.org. Most of these cases have been found in South Africa.

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As of May 3, Canada had detected three cases – two of BA.4 and one of BA.5, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told Global News on Friday.

“With all new sub-lines of COVID-19, scientists from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), along with national and international experts, are actively monitoring and evaluating the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages. Huh. associated study,” PHAC spokeswoman Anne Janier said in an emailed statement.

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WHO began tracking BA.4 and BA.5 in mid-April. They are in addition to the previously discovered subvariants BA.1 and BA.2, the latter of which dominates the global spread of COVID-19.

As part of their evolution, all viruses mutate over time and have subtypes that have a different genetic makeup than the original version but have a common origin.

The WHO states that BA.4 and BA.5 have acquired some additional mutations that may affect their characteristics.

Here’s what we know so far about these subvariants.

Are BA.4, BA.5 more transferable?

According to the WHO, BA.4 and BA.5 are increasing new COVID-19 cases in South Africa.

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Last week, more than 32,000 new infections were reported in the country, representing an increase of 67 percent from a week earlier, the weekly WHO update published on May 4 showed.

WHO told Global News that data from South Africa showed that BA.4 and BA.5 have a growth advantage over other sub-lineages of Omicron.

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Because of the additional mutations, BA.4 and BA.5 are about 10 percent more transmissible than BA.2, said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at McGill University Health Center (MUHC).

“The only way the virus can mutate and propagate is if it is transmitted within the community,” he said.

“Therefore, the logical and scientific solution is to reduce community transmission by any and all necessary means,” Vinh said, urging indoor masking to avoid crowded areas, ventilation and vaccination.


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The United Nations health agency said in its weekly update that the number of cases globally and the number of countries detecting these subvariants is increasing.

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As more cases are reported, experts say it is only a matter of time before they will replace previous strains and begin to dominate.

“I think of course they will take over because we see they start to grow in South Africa, and when you see they (cases) start to grow, that means they are taking over the last one ,” said Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease specialist at the University of British Columbia.

How will BA.4 affect BA.5 hospitalization?

Scientists are trying to determine whether BA.4 and BA.5 can cause more severe illness in infected people and increase hospitalizations.

Several studies are also underway that are looking at disease severity in the laboratory.

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WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual news conference, “It is too soon to know whether these new subvariants can cause more severe disease than other omicron subvariants, but early data suggests that vaccination remains protective against serious illness and death.” Conference on 4th May


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The WHO told Global News that it is seeing some increase in hospitalizations in South Africa, but that is to be expected when cases increase.

Vinh said it would be “extremely important” to take a closer look at how BA.4 and BA.5 affect hospitalizations, not only in South Africa, but also in Europe.

Vinh said, “What we have seen so far in the last six waves is that what happens in Europe doesn’t just stay in Europe, it predicts or predicts what happens in parts of Canada. “

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Will Vaccines Work Against BA.4, BA.5?

A pre-print study that has not been peer-reviewed was released on May 1 and concluded that BA.4 and BA.5 are well enough to trigger a new wave of antibodies from an earlier infection. can be infected with the virus, but is very rarely able to thrive in people who have been vaccinated against it. COVID-19.

“It’s always concerning when you have a version that’s a little more permeable and able to dodge the antibodies produced by the previous waves,” Vinh said.

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Scientists in South Africa took blood samples from 39 participants previously infected with the original BA.1 Omicron lineage, when it first appeared late last year.

Fifteen were vaccinated; Eight with Pfizer’s shot, seven with J&J – while the other 24 did not.

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“The vaccinated group showed an approximately five-fold higher neutralization capacity of BA.4 and BA.5 and should be better protected, although levels may decrease as they decrease,” the study authors said.


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In uninfected samples, there was an approximately eightfold decrease in antibody production upon exposure to BA.4 and BA.5 compared to the original BA.1 Omicron lineage. A three-fold reduction was observed in the blood of the vaccinated people.

Studies are underway to see how effective immunity built up through infection or vaccination is at protecting against BA.4 and BA.5 compared to other subtypes.

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“With all sub-lineages classified under Omicron, there is some level of immunity to avoidance,” said Dr Maria Van Vercowe, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, In a Twitter video on May 3,

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Bach said that even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s possible to become infected with new forms.

Still, experts are hopeful that existing vaccines will work to prevent serious illness and death, encouraging people to get vaccinated.

“Globally, this really means that we need to adequately vaccinate the whole world against COVID so that we can reduce the emergence of transmission and the emergence of variants,” Vinh said.

WHO has stressed the need for countries to continue testing and sequencing for new variants.

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“In many countries, we are essentially blind to how the virus is mutating. We do not know what is happening next,” said WHO chief Ghebreyesus.

PHAC’s Jenier said the Canadian government has a robust surveillance program in place with provinces and territories to identify COVID-19 variants in Canada, including the Omicron variant of the concern and its sub-lineages.

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However, experts say provinces are not tracking the new forms adequately, leading to a “gross underestimate” of the actual cases in the country.


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“We need to actively monitor what is going on in each of our provinces and our communities,” Vinh said.

“When the Public Health Agency of Canada tells us that they have collectively identified three cases at the national level, that’s just a pretty rough estimate of what’s really going on.”

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— With files from Reuters


© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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