Even as pandemic threat subsides, Covid-19 virus continues to evolve and most recently two Covid variants namely Eris or EG.5 and BA 2.86 have been increasing the caseload in UK, China and other countries. While Covid symptoms seem to have become milder with course of time and newer variants, the mutations in the spike protein have increased due to which they are becoming good at escaping immunity and also infecting people faster. While EG.5 has been declared variant of interest, BA 2.86 is being called variant under monitoring by WHO. BA 2.86 is said to be highly mutated and this particular strain has some new symptoms associated with it, says Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, corona-virologist and Covid awareness specialist at Rotary Club of Madras NextGen in a conversation with HT Digital. (Also read: New Covid variant EG.5: Symptoms to transmissibility; 7 things to know about Omicron subvariant Eris)
Why newer variants of Covid-19 are evolving
“The virus causing Covid-19 has continued to evolve from the time it was identified in December 2019. Over these last 3-3.5 years, we have seen lot of different variants come and go and each of these variants have lot of properties in common and some other varying ones. One of the common properties include the transmission via droplets. This has not changed in any of the variants that have come so far. We have seen the beta, gamma, delta, and Omicron variants. All these variants are causing Covid-19. What happens is when people with different symptoms of Covid-are identified, their sample is collected and sent for sequencing. Sequencing is a simple way of understanding what this virus is made of. Each of these variants behave differently because they have different genetic sequence changes,” says Dr Pavithra.
Eris or EG.5 and BA 2.86 are the two variants that have been making headlines as they are spreading very fast and are able to evade vaccine immunity or immunity acquired from an infection. Dr Pavithra explains the difference between the two strains.
Difference between EG.5 and BA 2.86 Covid variants
“We have a new ‘variant of interest’ and another fresh ‘variant under monitoring’ at this point – one is Eris EG.5 and the other is BA2.86. Both of these are variants from XBB lineage which is a descendent of Omicron. The difference is we have identified more of Eris cases worldwide which seems to have high rates of transmissibility. Whether we have more cases of BA2.86 or not, we have to see,” says Dr Pavithra.
New Covid symptoms of BA 2.86
Dr Pavithra says BA 2.86 has few new extra symptoms which seem to be associated with this variant infection.
“People are getting rashes, there is some eye redness, there is some cases of diarrhoea,” she says.
Fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste and smell, and sore throat are symptoms that are being reported with Eris infection.
Does this make BA 2.86 less or scarier? These aren’t overly surprising symptoms, but it’s a sudden change that shows the virus is continuously evolving, says Dr Pavithra.
New vaccines to fight new variants
“BA 2.86 has 36 new mutations that may allow it to evade the antibodies we already have. In the US and Germany they are upgrading PFizer and Moderna against the new strains. This doesn’t mean that the shots we took earlier are not effective, but they may be less effective. The battle between our immune system and the virus will be constantly faced as virus evolves. If not vaccinated, we must make sure you get it, especially if it’s been over a year.
Courtesy – www.hindustantimes.com