The COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, and its new variants will emerge in the days to come, warned the World Health Organization (WHO). The COVID-19 weekly Epidemiological update released by WHO said that the Omicron variant remains the dominant variant circulating globally.
The health organization said that it is continuing to monitor several descendent lineages of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, including two new sublineages that have additional mutations associated with potential immune escape characteristics.
The health organization further said that it continues to monitor several descendent lineages under the Omicron variant of concern, including BA.1, BA.2, BA.3 as well as now BA.4 and BA.5. It also includes BA.1/BA.2 circulating recombinant forms such as XE.
“A small number of sequences of BA.4 and BA.5 descendent lineages have now been detected in a few countries. Both have additional mutations in the Spike region (S:L452R, S:F486V) and unique mutations outside of Spike. The S:L452R and S:F486V mutations are associated with potential immune escape characteristics," the global health organization said.
It added that it is working with scientists to further assess the characteristics of these lineages and their public health implications. “WHO recommends countries to continue surveillance, where possible, and rapid data sharing on publicly available databases.”
According to WHO, the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to evolve. With such intense transmission worldwide, further variants, including recombinants, will emerge. “This is expected."
WHO is tracking the two new sublineages (BA.4 and BA.5) as part of the Omicron variant. These variants have additional mutations that need to be further studied to understand their impact on immune escape potential. Only a few dozen sequences of these variants have been reported from a handful of countries.
WHO is working with scientists to better understand their current spread as well as any potential impact they may have. WHO said that Omicron's properties of immune escape have been associated with the rapid and almost synchronous increase in the global incidence of Covid-19 cases reported until the end of January 2022.