The new coronavirus strain quickly caught the attention of health officials.
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that they are tracking BA.2.86, which has been found in very small numbers in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark and Israel.
This week, the WHO swiftly upgraded BA.2.86 to a “variant on surveillance”, adding that it has more than 30 mutations.
According to the WHO, “surveillance variants” refer to strains with genetic alterations that may affect traits such as transmissibility, but whose impact is unclear due to limited evidence. .
“If a variant has an unusually high number of antigenic variations, but very few sequences, and/or its relative growth advantage cannot be estimated, such a variant may [variant under monitoring]”, according to the WHO definition.
BA.2.86 is still a subvariant of omicron, but little information is currently available about this strain. A high number of mutations means that “closer surveillance” is needed. according to To Maria van Kerkhove of WHO.
“The potential impact of the BA.2.86 mutation is currently unknown and being carefully evaluated,” the WHO said in a report released Thursday.
The organization said the strain had too few sequences to estimate its prevalence. Likewise, it was not reflected in this week’s CDC’s variant tracker update.
A CDC spokesperson told US News, “Scientists are currently working to understand more about the newly identified lineage and will share more information as it becomes available.” said in a statement.
It’s too early to know what will happen with this new strain, but the health agency’s quick reaction may mean it’s a strain to watch.