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What Is ‘Centaurus,’ New Fast-Spreading Covid Variant: Everything You Need To Know

Virologists have expressed concerns regarding the arrival of another variant of Omicron in the United Kingdom, which is highly contagious. However, after being detected in May, the BA.2.75 variant nicknamed Centaurus is rapidly gaining ground in India [1].

Centaurus COVID Variant: What You Should Know

  • The variant is not a distinct variant but a subvariant of Omicron.
  • In early May, the BA.2.75 sub-variant was discovered in India and ave been given the nickname Centaurus.
  • Experts have noted that BA.2.75, which likely evolved from BA.2, contains extra mutations that could be concerning. Consequently, it may have developed an advantage over a virus lineage that is already successful.
  • There is less importance to the exact mutations than the number/combination of mutations. Consequently, it is difficult to predict the outcome of so many mutations occurring at the same time - it gives the virus a wildcard property where the sum of the parts could be worse than its parts individually.
  • Virologists believe this strain is likely to be more transmissible than BA.5, which was previously dominant in India, and therefore more likely to be dominant elsewhere. They caution, however, that there is not enough data available on the strain to make definitive statements.
  • In light of this, there is concern that it may be capable of evading immunity accumulated through vaccinations or previous infections with the COVID-19 virus.
  • The BA.2.75 variant is rapidly displacing the previously dominant BA.2 variant in many countries, including India. Aside from that, the number of cases has also increased significantly in the United Kingdom [2].
  • The variant has also been detected in 10 other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Germany, and Canada [3].

WHO On Centaurus BA.2.75

According to the WHO, only a limited number of sequences have been available for analysis. In total, there are approximately 200 sequences available from 14 different countries. However, since they have very few sequences of this virus, their understanding of it is quite limited.

It appears, however, that this subvariant has a few mutations on the receptor bindings for the spike protein, according to WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. "So obviously, that's a key part of the virus that attaches itself to the human receptor. So we have to watch that. she said [4]."

What Is Different About 'Centaurus'?

BA.2.75, like BA.5, is a subvariant of Omicron, the highly transmissible form of Coronavirus that has rapidly gained dominance throughout the world this year.

The fact that it has overtaken BA.5 in India indicates that it may also become dominant in other countries. One of the possible reasons for this could be due to the number of changes in its spike protein, which is the protein on the surface of a virus that helps it enter cells.

While BA.2.775 may become dominant throughout the world, it is not necessarily something to worry about [5].

Why Is The New Sub-variant Called 'Centaurus'?

The World Health Organization has not yet issued an official Greek letter naming BA.2.75 Centaurus, insisting that it is a subvariant of Omicron [6].

The name Centaurus appears inspired by a tweet from user @xabitron1, who wrote on July 1: "I have just named BA.2.75 variant after a galaxy. Its new name is Centaurus strain. Get used to it. Today, I'm in command of anything pandemic."

On A Final Note...

It is not yet known whether this subvariant has additional immune invasion properties or is more clinically severe. In addition, whenever a virus appears to be different from a previous variant enough to warrant monitoring closely, the WHO will keep a close eye on it.

The best defence against severe COVID-19 remains vaccination and booster vaccinations, even if they cannot guarantee that reinfections will not occur.

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