published : 2023-08-21

COVID-19's New Mutation: A Variant of Interest Tracked by Global Health Agencies

Health agencies closely monitor BA.2.86, a new and highly mutated strain of the virus causing COVID-19

A scientist examining a 3D model of a virus particle under a microscope which shows the numerous mutations. Image taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are closely observing a recently identified highly mutated strain of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The strain, known as BA.2.86, has been marked as a 'variant under monitoring' by WHO due to the significant number of mutations it harbors.

Further data is required to understand fully this COVID-19 variant and its extent of penetration, yet the number of mutations necessitates vigilant monitoring.

WHO, in a statement released on social media, stated that they would be updating countries and the general public as more information becomes available.

An image of a sign with World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC logos, indicating collaborative research and tracking. Capture taken with Nikon D850.

Currently, the WHO is keeping tabs on three variants of interest and seven variants under monitoring.

Equally, as the virus continues to circulate and evolve, WHO urged the need for improved surveillance, sequencing, and reporting of COVID-19.

CDC also stated that its protective guidelines against COVID-19 remain unchanged despite the emergence of BA.2.86.

The mutated strain is one among many that health agencies globally are monitoring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Pfizer laboratory with a researcher holding a vaccine vial, marking the development of vaccines against the new variants of COVID-19. Shot taken with a Sony Alpha 7R IV.

Pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, announced that its redesigned COVID-19 vaccine, which is being tested against new variants, showed neutralising activity against the 'Eris' subvariant in studies conducted on mice.

Pfizer, alongside its German associate BioNTech SE, Moderna and Novavax, steps up to the challenge as they develop new versions of their shots targeted at the XBB.1.5 subvariant.

Interestingly, the EG.5 subvariant, which is akin to XBB.1.5, and is in fact a sub-lineage of the still prevalent Omicron variant, has been associated with more than 17% of COVID-19 cases in the United States according to recent governmental data.