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UK Covid variant: New sub-variants spark global concern

Growing concern about two new sub-variants of Covid-19 has increased infection rates in the UK, raising concerns that other countries could soon see outbreaks again in schools. fit.

Known as BA.4 and BA.5, these strains were discovered in South Africa in January and February respectively and are actually grandchildren of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which spread globally in late 2021, and there are three mutations to them. spike proteins, which are feared, allow them to replicate their attack on human lung cells.

That means they have a lot in common with earlier Alpha and Delta variants, the more dangerous being the highly transmissible but milder Omicron, which targets upper respiratory tract tissue.

Potentially, these mutations could also allow sub-variants to overcome antibodies from past infections or vaccinations and thus overcome immunity.

Preliminary data collected by Professor Kei Sato of the University of Tokyo in Japan seems to suggest much, prompting the virologist to comment: “Overall, our investigations suggest a risk [these] The Omicron variants, especially BA.4 and BA.5, have a greater potential for global health than the original BA.2. “

Professor Sato’s experiments indicated that the regenerative variants were more efficient in the lungs than Omicrons, while further experiments in guinea pigs showed that BA.4 and BA.5 could induce more severe disease. .

The World Health Organization has also been investigating these two sub-variants since April to assess whether they are more infectious or dangerous than previous variants and has since added them to its surveillance list. his close.

The European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled BA.4 and BA.5 respectively as “variants of concern” in mid-May.

What has raised particular alarm in recent weeks has been the dramatic increase in infections in the UK following a four-day celebration in honor of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee from 2-5 June, this encouraged increased exchanges and resulted in a 43% increase in digital cases the following week.

The latest UK data recorded 75,367 new cases in the seven days to June 15, up nearly 39% from the previous week.

Covid deaths are still very low but hospital admissions have started to rise, doubling in the UK from 421 on 26 May to 842 on 15 June.

While immunity is high in the UK, with 87.1% of the population having received two doses of the vaccine and 68.5% of those having received a booster shot, the public has largely behaved as if the pandemic had never occurred. hours since the last time Boris Johnson’s government was unpopular. The restrictions were lifted a month ahead of schedule on February 24, giving up masks and looking far away and returning to normal life.

However, it has now been more than six months since the last booster drive was installed before Christmas and New Year and immunity could begin to wane, potentially leading to more patients requiring specialized care. employment and possibly even death, now or later in the year when flu season subsides.

John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and immunization at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health, warns: “There is a disparity between the facts of how infections are occurring… and how people decide not to take a lot of precautions. The Daily Beastobserved the situation of Great Britain and suggested that its conditions could easily be replicated across the Atlantic.

If the same subvariant surge reaches North America, moving east to west as all previous Covid waves have done, the US will find itself far less immunized, with only 66.8% of the American public. fully vaccinated and only 47% coins received a booster.

Currently, BA.4 and BA.5 account for about 21% or a fifth of new cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first case identified on the US coast in New York in April.

But experts now expect that rate to rise dramatically in the coming weeks, another unwelcome reminder that the pandemic is far from over, as we might wish.

How dangerous are the new sub-variants, will they be able to power antibodies that pass through and cause serious illness, or will our accumulated immunity take hold. , still have to see.

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