Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023

Centaurus BA.2.75: ‘Sheer number of mutations’ fuelling ‘concerns’, warns expert – Covid

Coronavirus booster vaccines to be offered to over 50s in Autumn

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Part of this concern is down to the appearance of a new variant of COVID-19 known as BA.2.75 or Centaurus.

A highly transmissible subvariant of Omicron, BA.2.75 is raising alarm bells after taking off in India.

Since then, it has also arrived in the UK.

The new variant is thought to spread even faster than the current dominant sub-variants in the UK Omicron BA.2 and BA.5.

Why is the UK worried?

Professor Denis Kinane of Cignpost Diagnostics says: “Concerns are being fuelled by the sheer number of mutations compared to its predecessors, particularly in relation to the spike protein which allows the virus to bind more efficiently to cells.

“There are also fears that these genetic tweaks might make it easier for the virus to bypass antibodies.”

If Centaurus can get around antibodies this means it can more effectively evade protection conferred by vaccines and previous infection.

However, the main problem with Centaurus is the lack of information officials have about it.

“It could take a few weeks to truly understand the potential impact of the new variant but nonetheless, vaccines, boosters and testing remain our best line of defence against COVID-19,” says Kinane.

Nevertheless, if signs from India are anything to go by, Centaurus could be another spanner in the side of the UK’s viral defences.

The recent wave has seen case numbers to rise to some of their highest numbers since mass testing began in 2020.

As a result of the rise in case numbers, there are questions about whether masks or other restrictions should be reintroduced.

On this Kinane says: “It is important to understand that vaccines tend to reduce the disease severity, but only slightly reduce the ability for the vaccinated person to catch the virus and pass it on.

“No one wants to return to full lockdowns, so taking reasonable precautions and being socially responsible is vital.

“This includes using face masks, especially in enclosed and crowded spaces, and where people mix and vocally interact.”

So, lockdowns may be a thing of the past, but other restrictions could return.

In some cases, they already have.

Earlier this month NHS Trusts such as that of North Tees and Hartlepool took the decision to reintroduce mandatory mask wearing and face coverings in patient areas of its hospitals.

Deputy chief nurse Karen Sheard said of the decision: “Patient and colleague safety must be our priority and we ask everyone to do their bit by wearing a mask when visiting our hospitals.”

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