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    COVID-19: What is ‘Centaurus’ that rules Twitter chatter? Is WHO listening?

    COVID-19: What is ‘Centaurus’ that rules Twitter chatter? Is WHO listening?

    COVID-19: What is ‘Centaurus’ that rules Twitter chatter? Is WHO listening?
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)

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    Ominously enough, Centaurus has nothing to do with a dinosaur, real or imagined. It's a bit smaller and way more dangerous and contemporary than that. What is it and how wild can it get? Read on to find out.

    ‘Centaurus’ has been doing rounds on Twitter recently. Well, it's not a cinematic dinosaur species, though it may sound like one. Instead, it’s a nickname given to a COVID-19 sub-variant by users of the social media platform.

    Since the last few weeks, we’ve been hearing a lot about the newly-discovered Omicron sub-lineage BA.2.75. As researchers and scientists raised concerns over this lineage of novel coronavirus, Twitter jumped in to name it ‘Centaurus.’ However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not officially named it yet.

    COVID-19 cases have been exploding again in some parts of the world, including in the US and the UK. "First, sub-variants of Omicron, like BA.4 and BA.5, continue to drive waves of cases, hospitalisation and death around the world," the WHO said earlier. Now the focus has slightly shifted to the BA.2.75 lineage which was first reported in India in early May and has now spread to around 10 countries.

    While the debate over sub-variant's transmissibility is still on the table, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said last week that global body is closely tracking the strain, but there were "limited sequences to analyse." She said, "It is still too early to know if this sub variant has properties of additional immune invasion."

    Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is probing the variant as a ‘Variants under monitoring’ — meaning that "there is some indication that they could have properties similar to those of a VoC (variant of concern). However, it said the evidence "is weak or has not yet been assessed by ECDC."

    In contrast to the view of WHO and ECDC, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, which is a Dutch research institute, suspected that this BA.2.75 might be able to "evade immunity built against" COVID-19. It said, "Like other Omicron sub-variants, BA.2.75 does seem to have minor specific mutations that enable it to more easily evade the immunity built up against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2." However, it also noted that "not much is known about BA.2.75 at this point."

    Amid this, Andy Slavitt, a former Biden White House senior advisor, voiced concerns over the mutation of the virus. He said in tweet: "Even as BA.5 makes its mark in the US, Centaurus has 11 unique mutations from BA.5. This gives a strong clue for what the future holds. (sic)" Major virus mutations are likely to have impact on "how fast a virus spreads or potentially how severe a viral infection might be" or if it evaded immunity.

    The word, ‘Centaurus,’ comes from the word, centaur, a mythical creature with a man’s head, arms and upper body on a horse’s body and legs. There is a real Centaurus — a bright constellation appearing in the southern sky. "The constellation has a large, four-sided shape representing the human head and torso, attached to two legs. Rigel Kentaurus, the triple star system that contains Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun, forms one of the Centaur's feet," Chandra X-ray Center, Operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, said on its website.

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