A ‘Stealth’ Variant of Omicron Is Taking Over COVID-19 Infections

Infections caused by this variant have surged in India, Denmark and the UK.
Ameya Paleja
Is this variant taking over infections, stealthily? wildpixel/iStock

Even as Omicron infections in the U.S. have peaked, a new variant on the block will keep health authorities on tenterhooks for now. Called 'Stealth Omicron', it is one of the substrains that emerged with Omicron and is reported to be more transmissible than Omicron itself, Euronews reported.  

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the B.1.1.529 variant of coronavirus, commonly called, the Omicron variant had emerged with three substrains called BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3. While BA.1 was the variant that had spread rapidly across the world and was more highly transmissible than the Delta variant, reports suggest that the BA.2 could be spreading much faster.  

In Denmark, BA.2 makes up for about half of all Omicron cases, Euronews reported, and while the Omicron variant had a mutation that made it possible to be detected by PCR tests, the BA.2 does not carry the same mutation, making it difficult to be detected by PCR, hence the name, 'Stealth Omicron.'

The U.K. Health Security Agency has so far detected 426 cases of the "Stealth Omicron", the Independent reported and has categorized it as a "variant under investigation" after it has been detected in over 40 countries, so far, including India, Sweden, Norway, Singapore to list a few. 

Researchers at the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, where BA.2 infections have soared from 20 percent of all COVID cases in December 2021, to 45 percent in the next two weeks, haven't found any differences in hospitalization rates due to infections of BA.2. Researcher Anders Fomsgaard told the Independent that BA.2 could possibly be resistant to immunity and people infected by BA.1 might also be infected by BA.2 soon after leading to a double peak, during this wave. 

Tom Peacock, Virologist at Imperial College, however, differed on this. He tweeted. 

UKHSA has said that it is investigating the variant in the lab and also epidemiological to understand if the variant is majorly different from the BA.1. Eric Topol, an expert physician-scientist, tweeted that there wasn't any functional or epidemiological data to suggest that BA.2 was different that BA.1, and even the virus was more transmissible, it wasn't a cause of distress at this point. 

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