Scientists have their eyes on a new mutation of the COVID-19 virus: BA.2.75, yet another subvariant of omicron.
The new subvariant has been detected in at least three U.S. states, according to Helix, a company conducting viral surveillance of the coronavirus. Helix said it identified BA.2.75 in California and Washington two weeks ago, and detected another case in Illinois last week.
New York Institute of Technology professor Raj Rajnarayanan also maintains a database tracking COVID-19 variants. He reported the new subvariant has been detected in seven states as of Thursday: California, Washington, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet included BA.2.75 in its tracker of variant proportions around the country.
While the new subvariant has started popping up in the U.S., the vast majority of BA.2.75 cases have been found on the other side of the world in India. Much like its fellow omicron strains, BA.2.75 appears to be pretty good at evading immunity from COVID-19 vaccines and natural immunity.
But even in India, other types of omicron are still dominant. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics said last week it’s monitoring the prevalence of BA.2.75, reports the Economic Times, but it’s still too soon to say if the subvariant causes more severe disease than other types of omicron.
“It’s still really early on for us to draw too many conclusions,” Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic, told the Associated Press. “But it does look like, especially in India, the rates of transmission are showing kind of that exponential increase.”
It can also be hard to draw conclusions from other countries, experts explain, because the demographics can be very different. There are different levels of vaccination and different types of COVID-19 vaccines used.
“New variants and subvariants will emerge that evade immunity from the vaccine and prior infection, and we can’t ever quite know exactly what they’re going to do to our case rates until we get there,” said Tufts Medical Center Dr. Shira Doron in an interview with WBTS. “How it behaves in one place may not predict how it behaves in another.”