Well-Being Prevention & Cures

UK labels new omicron subvariant BA.2 a ‘variant under investigation’

Story at a glance

  • A subvariant of omicron is increasing in several countries.
  • The U.K. government has declared it a “variant under investigation” with about 400 cases detected in the country.
  • Not much is known about the subvariant in terms of transmissibility and severity.

Although we are dealing with the realities of the omicron variant in the U.S., other countries have been reporting an omicron subvariant that seems to be more difficult to detect. The variant, named BA.2 while the original omicron variant is BA.1, has been found in 40 countries including the U.S., the U.K., India, Germany and Australia. 

Government officials in the U.K. have labelled BA.2 as a “variant under investigation” as of Jan. 21. This is even though only about 400 cases have been detected. In total around the world, more than 10,000 cases of BA.2 have been reported, although that may be an underestimate.  


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The subvariant has been increasing in some countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden, where it may already be overtaking the original omicron variant. In Norway, BA.2 cases went from seven on Jan. 4 to 611 on Jan. 19 and were mainly found in Oslo. In Denmark, it went from 20 percent of all cases at the end of December to 45 percent by the second week of January. 

A Moroccan researcher says that BA.2 belongs to the same lineage as the omicron variant but has 30 more mutations than the original version. Several of these mutations are on the spike protein, the part of the virus that acts as a key to get into human cells and is the target for some antibodies. 

The original omicron variant was more easily detected from PCR tests because probable cases could be flagged when a specific piece of genetic code was missing. BA.2 is “stealthy” in that probable cases can’t get picked up in routine PCR tests and need to be sequenced completely. 

Other than this information, not much else is known about the subvariant. Experts think that it may be more contagious than original omicron, but there isn’t enough information yet to say anything about transmissibility or severity of disease. 


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