New COVID Variant Comes on CDC's Radar

BA.2.86 has an unusually large number of mutations
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2023 2:07 PM CDT
New COVID Variant Comes on CDC's Radar
An illustration of coronavirus cells in an electron microscope.   (Getty / AltoClassic)

The days when a new strain of COVID could make headlines may seem like the distant past, but the CDC is calling attention to what it says is a potentially worrisome one, reports CBS News. It's called BA.2.86, and it's been spotted so far in the US, Denmark, Israel, and the UK, says the agency. The World Health Organization is also tracking it as a "variant under monitoring," per a post at the former Twitter, and that designation has come about in unusually quick fashion. The variant was first identified only on July 24.

So is it more dangerous than the other strains now in circulation? It's too early to tell, but the variant's 36 mutations deserve a careful look, Dr. S. Wesley Long of Houston Methodist tells Reuters. Virologist Jesse Bloom tells the outlet that BA.2.86 has an "equal or greater" chance of being able to evade immunity better than Omicron or pre-Omicron variants. "My biggest concern would be that it could cause a bigger spike in cases than what we have seen in recent waves," says Long, adding that "boosters will still help you fight off COVID in general." (More COVID-19 stories.)

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