Title: Highly Mutated COVID-19 Variant Pirola Found in Utah Wastewater – Surveillance Provides Early Warning System
In a recent development, a new highly mutated variant of COVID-19, known as Pirola or BA.2.86, has been detected in wastewater samples collected from a sewage treatment plant in Tooele, Utah. The discovery of the variant serves as an early warning system for potential outbreaks in the region.
Pirola has not yet been identified in individual positive COVID-19 tests, but its presence has been confirmed in 10 other states, including Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. New York and Ohio have also found Pirola in wastewater samples.
Similar to the omicron variant, Pirola is raising concerns due to over 30 mutations it possesses. However, experts believe that these mutations do not make Pirola as severe as the original omicron. To date, Pirola has been observed in Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, accounting for a significant portion of COVID-19 cases in the latter last month.
Initial assessments suggested that Pirola could have increased infectivity in individuals with previous COVID-19 infections or vaccinations. Nonetheless, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that existing antibodies remain effective against Pirola. This is encouraging for the future effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
In light of the variant’s emergence, a new booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically targeting variants such as Pirola, has recently received approval for all individuals aged 6 months and older. This aims to further enhance the population’s immune response against emerging mutations.
Although experts initially expressed concern about Pirola’s high mutation rate, current assessments indicate that the variant may be less threatening than initially anticipated. Vaccinated individuals and those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 seem to have effectively neutralized the variant.
While Pirola is being closely monitored, it does not currently pose a significant threat. The nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is not primarily driven by this particular variant. Nevertheless, continued surveillance and vigilance are crucial to mitigate any potential risks and control the spread of the virus effectively.
The detection of Pirola in wastewater highlights the importance of wastewater surveillance as an early warning system. It allows health officials to proactively identify the presence of emerging variants, enabling prompt interventions to mitigate the risks associated with potential outbreaks.
As the situation evolves, researchers and health authorities will continue to monitor Pirola and assess its impact on the ongoing pandemic. In the meantime, it is crucial for individuals to stay informed, continue practicing preventive measures, and follow the guidance provided by public health officials to ensure the safety and well-being of all.