New Data Shows Mutated Omicron Subvariant Less Concerning Than Feared
New information from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech suggests that the highly mutated BA.2.86 Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 is not as concerning as initially feared. This comes as a relief amidst increasing COVID infections and hospitalizations, although they are still below previous peaks, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the BA.2.86 variant has been detected in multiple US states and several countries, it currently represents less than 1% of total cases. Instead, experts believe that the EG.5 subvariant and a variant nicknamed “Fornax” are more prevalent in the US, with the latter expected to become the predominant variant in the coming months.
The current surge in cases may be attributed to waning immunity from vaccination and previous infections. However, scientists have been closely monitoring BA.2.86 due to its high number of mutations, which raised concerns about a major surge in cases.
Fortunately, experiments conducted in US laboratories have provided reassuring evidence. Antibodies against the BA.2.86 variant were found to be comparable or slightly higher than those against current circulating variants, suggesting that a major surge is unlikely. Additionally, studies indicate that newly updated vaccines will enhance antibody responses against all currently circulating variants, including BA.2.86.
Moderna’s updated vaccine showed a significant nearly 9-fold increase in human antibodies capable of neutralizing BA.2.86, while Pfizer’s updated shot demonstrated neutralizing activity against both BA.2.86 and EG.5 in studies conducted on mice.
These updated shots are currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are expected to be available this month. If approved, they could provide much-needed protection against the evolving COVID variants. As the world continues to navigate the ongoing pandemic, keeping up with the latest research and developments remains crucial in safeguarding public health.
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