The UK is currently experiencing a large spike in COVID-19 cases, and scientists fear it could be down to a new sub-variant named “Centaurus”: a more infectious cousin of the Omicron variant that spiraled out of control at the start of this year.
B.A.2.75, nicknamed Centaurus, was first detected in India in May. It has since spread to around 10 other countries, including the UK, US, Germany, and more. It is currently considered an Omicron subvariant under monitoring by the WHO, with scientists believing it could be more transmissible and less hindered by vaccination.
Despite the likely advantages Centaurus possesses, it is currently unclear whether it results in more serious disease than previous variants.
Following the detection of Centaurus in the UK, case numbers have risen steeply at a rate much faster than the variant BA.5 (Omicron) before it. According to the Office of National Statistics, UK, reinfections are up dramatically owing to the Omicron variants.
At a WHO press conference about COVID-19 and the state of the world, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the virus is continuing to evolve, but so far vaccinations are staving off the worst of it.
“BA.2 is dominant worldwide. We have increasing numbers of BA.4, BA.5 around the world. We have more sublineages that are being tracked. BA.2.12.1, which is dominant in the United States now. So, this is far from over from a virus evolution point of view,” said the Director-General in a statement.
“The good news is that the vaccines continue to work, these vaccines that are based on the ancestral strain, that are significantly reducing hospitalisations, admission to ICUs and deaths. This is why we continue to need to push for vaccination coverage around the world and, in particular, among those who are most at risk.”