Virologists are concerned about the new corona variant “Centaurus”.

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BA.2.75 has now also been detected in Germany. The new corona virus is still considered rare in this country.

(Photo: IMAGO/Lobeca)

Berlin The coronavirus has produced another omicron variant. Scientists around the world fear that the subline BA.2.75, also called “Centaurus”, could possibly spread quickly. It could also circumvent immunity from vaccines and previous Covid infections.

However, it is still unclear whether BA 2.75 leads to more serious Covid diseases than other omicron variants. All important questions and answers about BA.2.75 at a glance.

How widespread is BA.2.75 in Germany and the world?

BA.2.75 was first detected in several states of India. The new mutation has now appeared in ten other countries. These include Germany, Australia, Great Britain, the USA and Canada.

Although BA.2.75 has already been detected in Germany, it is still considered rare. In the Covid-19 weekly reports of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nothing can be found about virus variant BA.2.75. According to RKI data, the omicron variant BA.5 is clearly predominant in Germany. The proportions in samples have recently increased from week to week. The reason for the increased spread is, among other things, that Omicron has mutations that better escape the defenses of vaccinated and recovered people.

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BA.2.75: How contagious is the new corona variant?

Centaurus appears to be spreading faster than other variants. This is the assessment of scientists Lipi Thukral from the CSIR Research Institute for Genetics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi.

The fact that BA.2.75 has already been detected in many parts of the world, even with less virus surveillance, is an early indication of the rapid spread, agrees Shishi Luo. She is the director of infectious diseases at Helix, a US virus sequencing company.

Overall, however, scientists are still cautious about subvariant BA.2.75. Although Centaurus has a number of relevant mutations, it has so far been observed very rarely and mainly in India, Richard Neher from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel explained to the German Press Agency. “It is quite possible that BA.2.75 will become a globally successful variant, but it is too early to say for sure,” said the virus evolution expert.

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Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, also comes to this conclusion. According to him too, it is still too early to draw many conclusions. However, it looks like transmission rates, particularly in India, are showing some sort of exponential increase.

How dangerous is BA.2.75?

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) refers to BA.2.75 as of July 7, 2022 “Variant under observation”. This means it could be more contagious and is associated with more severe disease progression. However, the evidence for this is weak or has not yet been established.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also monitoring BA.2.75 more closely. However, her chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said there were too few samples to assess the danger.

How could BA.2.75 bypass immunity through vaccines?

The subline of the omicron variant may have an altered genome. This is indicated by a number of new mutations. According to the scientists, BA.2.75 thus differs from Omicron predecessors. It is possible that this would not only allow it to bind to cells more efficiently, but also to cheat antibodies more easily.

The virologist Tom Peacock from Imperial College in London explains in more detail on Twitter that the pathogen has several mutations in the so-called spike protein, which the virus uses to attack human cells.

When viewed individually, none of the changes really make you sit up and take notice, but when they all appeared together, it’s a different matter, the scientist writes. Peacock was the first to identify the omicron variant as potentially dangerous in 2021. In a Twitter discussion, however, he and other researchers restrict that the previous assessments are still very speculative.

How can you protect yourself from Centaurus?

According to the experts, the existing vaccines and boosters still provide the best protection against severe Covid 19 disease even with BA.2.75. The BA.2.75 variant is a reminder that the coronavirus is constantly evolving and spreading, says Shishi Luo. “We would like to return to pre-pandemic life, but we still have to be careful. We have to accept that we are now living with a higher risk than before,” said the scientist from the US company Helix.

How well is the omicron variant BA.2.75 detectable?

According to experts, BA.2.75 should also be detectable in laboratory tests (PCR). There is no indication that BA.2.75 cannot be detected by PCR, writes the Swiss virologist Isabella Eckerle on Twitter. Richard Neher from the University of Basel also explained that detection problems seemed unlikely to him with PCR tests, since these tests typically have several target genes.

More: BA.5: Incubation period and symptoms of the corona variant

With agency material

First publication: 13.7.2022, 2:37 p.m.