India has new Covid sub-variant of Omicron, may be alarming: Israeli expert

A healthcare worker collects a nasal sample of an International passenger for the COVID-19 test, at Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi.
A healthcare worker collects a nasal sample of an International passenger for the COVID-19 test, at Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi. File/ANI

New Delhi: About 10 states in India have detected a new sub-variant of Omicron BA.2.75, which may be "alarming" in nature, according to an Israeli expert on Sunday.

However, the Indian Health Ministry is yet to officially confirm the detection of the sub-variant in the country.

In a series of Tweets, Dr. Shay Fleishon, with the Central Virology Laboratory at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, said that 85 sequences from eight countries have been uploaded so far on Nextstrain, an open-source platform of genomic data.

This included 69 from India: Delhi (1), Haryana (6), Himachal Pradesh (3), Jammu (1), Karnataka (10), Madhya Pradesh (5), Maharashtra (27), Telangana (2), Uttar Pradesh (1), and West Bengal (13).

Besides India, the strain has also been reported by seven other countries: Japan (1), Germany (2), the UK (6), Canada (2), the US (2), Australia (1), and New Zealand (2), according to the Nextstrain data.

"No transmission could be tracked based on sequences outside India yet," Fleishon wrote on Twitter.

While he said it is "too soon to tell" whether BA.2.75 will be the next dominant variant, he noted that the sub-variant may be "alarming because it may imply a trend to come".

Fleishon explained that in recent months, there has been a trend of second generation variants based on Omicron sub-lineages, namely BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.

This was based on Omicron lineages with mutations in the S1 section of the spike protein and specifically in the part of the spike protein which the virus uses to connect to and gain entry into cells.

However, the rise seen in these sub-variants has been "at a level not seen in second-generation variants from other variants of concerns".

Further, until now these second-generation variants have only been found in a few cases within one region. This is the first time a second-generation variant from Omicron has spread to multiple regions.

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