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    All you need to know about Omicron's BA.2 sub-variant, present in 40 countries

    All you need to know about Omicron's BA.2 sub-variant, present in 40 countries

    All you need to know about Omicron's BA.2 sub-variant, present in 40 countries
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)

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    The sub-variant BA.2 contains mutations that are different from the original Omicron BA.1 variant and is thought to be becoming more prevalent in India.

    A particular subset of the Omicron lineage is now concerning many with its spread in Denmark and its growing dominance in India. The BA.2 sub-variant was first identified just weeks after the Omicron variant started spreading across the world. National Center for Disease Control Director Dr S.K. Singh said the BA.2 sub-variant was becoming more prominent in India and the overall cases of Omicron were also rising at the same time.
    "We were getting more samples of BA.1 earlier mostly found in travellers but now we are seeing that BA.2 has become more prevalent in the community,” Singh said as reported by news agency PTI.
    The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported that 9,672 cases of Omicron were identified through genomic sequencing in January, compared to 1,292 cases in December 2021. While the real caseload of the Omicron variant, both BA.1 and BA.2 lineages, is much higher, not all cases can be identified since not all samples are sent for genomic sequencing.
    The BA.2 variant, also known as the 'stealth' version of Omicron, is now found in over 40 countries, with the majority of the cases clustered in Denmark. Data from the PANGO directory of coronaviruses shows that 79 percent of the cases detected of the sub-variant are from Denmark. The UK (6 percent), India (5 percent), Sweden (2 percent) and Singapore (2 percent) follow the Nordic country in terms of detected infections.
    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has classified BA.2 as a ‘variant under surveillance’ though the World Health Organization (WHO) has not designated this sub-variant. Omicron as a whole has been classified as a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO and is seen as becoming the globally dominant variant of SARS CoV-2, if isn’t so already.
    Though the rising spread of the sub-variant may lead to further investigation by the global body, the WHO has recommended that "investigations into the characteristics of BA.2, including immune escape properties and virulence, should be prioritised independently (and comparatively) to BA.1."
    The BA.2 sub-variant has a total of 20 mutations on the spike protein. It's not yet known how differently the sub-variant behaves from its sister lineage and what effects these mutations may have.
    It is possible that the sub-variant is at least just as contagious as the original Omicron variant since it is able to compete and beat the highly infectious variant in some areas of the world but the mechanism behind this is completely unknown.
    While world health agencies wait for further information, caution is also being sounded on the fact that it isn't known if the BA.2 variant can reinfect those who were infected by the Omicron variant.
    The Omicron variant was first identified by South Africa in November after a number of cases of COVID-19 were detected in asymptomatic individuals. Through genomic sequencing, it was determined that the Omicron variant possessed a total of 50 mutations in its genetic structure, of which 36 were on the spike protein alone.
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