The WHO has decided to classify this new variant “in the category of variants under surveillance due to the very high number (more than 30) of mutations of the Spike gene that it carries,” the organization writes in its epidemiological bulletin dedicated to the COVID -19 pandemic and night broadcast from Thursday to Friday.
It is the Spike protein that gives the virus its spiky appearance and is what allows SARS-CoV-2 to enter host cells.
So far, this new variant has only been detected in Israel, Denmark, the United States, and UK health authorities also confirmed a case on Friday.
In the United States, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also indicated that they are closely monitoring the variant, in a message posted on the social network X (ex-Twitter).
“The potential impact of BA.2.86 mutations is currently unknown and is being carefully evaluated,” says the organization, which again emphasizes the importance of continuing to monitor, sequence, and notify competent authorities to have an accurate and comprehensive picture of COVID. . -19 pandemic.
“So far, the WHO is aware of 6 BA.2.86 sequences, but we expect this number to change,” a WHO spokeswoman told AFP.
WHO is tracking three variants of interest (XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16 and EG.5) and seven variants are classified under surveillance (BA.2.75, BA.2.86, CH.1.1, XBB, XBB.1.9.1, XBB 1.9.2 and XBB.2.3).
Most of the states that had implemented specific surveillance systems for the presence of the COVID-19 virus and its variants have generally dismantled them, believing that the threat was now less severe and no longer justified these expenses.
The WHO has consistently denounced this “disarmament” and continues to “call for better surveillance, sequencing and reporting of COVID-19 as this virus continues to circulate and evolve.”
If since the beginning of May the WHO no longer considers the pandemic a global health emergency, “the virus continues to circulate in all countries, it continues to kill and it continues to change,” its director general, Tedros, stressed again last week. Ghebreyesus.
François Balloux, who heads the chair of bioinformatics at University College London, believes the attention paid to the new variant is justified.
“BA.2.86 is the most striking strain of SARS-CoV-2 the world has seen since Omicron came along,” he said in a comment posted on Friday, referring to the variant that exploded onto the world stage in the winter of 2022. , causing an increase in COVID cases.
“Over the next few weeks, we will see how well BA.2.86 performs against other Omicron sub-variants,” he said.
However, he noted that even if BA.2.86 caused a major increase in infections, “we don’t expect to see comparable levels of severe illness and death compared to what we did earlier in the pandemic when Alpha, Delta, or Omicron variants have spread.” .
Since then, a large part of the world population has been vaccinated or has some protection after being infected.
During the latest period under review (July 17 to August 13, 2023), more than 1.4 million new cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,300 deaths were reported, according to the WHO epidemiological bulletin. This represents a 63% increase and a 56% decrease, respectively, compared to the previous 28-day period.
As of August 13, 2023, more than 769 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 6.9 million deaths have been reported worldwide. The actual number of infections and deaths is believed to be much higher, with many cases missing from the census.