New Covid variant ‘Pirola’ or BA.2.86 is different from others; 5 key facts | Health - Hindustan Times
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New Covid variant ‘Pirola’ or BA.2.86 is different from others, Coronavirologist shares 5 important facts

By, New Delhi
Aug 30, 2023 07:41 PM IST

Coronavirologist Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan says that Pirola or BA.2.86 variant has as many changes as Omicron had from Delta.

Coronavirus has been changing and evolving ever since it was first discovered in the year 2019 and became a global concern in a matter of few months. The original Covid strain soon turned into the 'deadly Delta' taking a huge toll across the globe. With massive vaccination drive all across India and other parts of the world, and the efforts of Covid warriors including scientists, medical practitioners, doctors, nurses, this health crisis could be curbed. As Covid transformed into a way milder Omicron variant, the symptoms became less severe and the fears regarding the spread of the virus eased. (Also read: New Covid variants Eris vs BA 2.86: Is the one scarier than the other? Know difference between symptoms)

One of the recent variants that has been discovered is BA 2.86. This variant is interesting because it has a lot of 35 new mutations that sets it apart from previously known prevalent covid variants.
One of the recent variants that has been discovered is BA 2.86. This variant is interesting because it has a lot of 35 new mutations that sets it apart from previously known prevalent covid variants.

Coronavirologist Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan says that Pirola or BA.2.86 variant that has been increasing cases in US, UK, China and other countries, seems to have as many changes as Omicron had from Delta. The coronavirologist also added that we are yet to understand the severity of the strain and the impact of the new mutations the virus has.

Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, corona-virologist and Covid awareness specialist at Rotary Club of Madras NextGen in a telephonic interview with HT Digital shares 5 important facts about Pirola or BA.2.86 that everyone wants to know.

1. Pirola or BA.2.86 has 35 new mutations

All viruses change with time including SARS-Cov2. These changes are designated as variant depending on how different they are based on their genetic sequence as compared to the previous variant. One of the recent variants that has been discovered is BA 2.86. This variant is interesting because it has a lot of 35 new mutations that sets it apart from previously known prevalent Covid variants.

2. BA.2.86 has limited samples so severity is unknown

We don't know the severity of this strain because worldwide we have received just 9 samples. This does not mean that there are only 9 cases. This simply means that all the Covid virus cases that were tested for the genetic sequence, 9 have been identified in different parts of the world suggesting it's prevalent worldwide.

3. Pirola may not be really new

It is important to remember that just because we have detected a variant now doesn't mean it's new. Covid is no longer considered a global crisis. The efforts put into genetically sequencing the virus have also come down, so we don't know for how long this variant has been travelling undetected. There is no evidence to suggest that this variant is a lot more severe in terms of symptoms they cause or how quickly they transmit from each other simply because we have just 9 identified sequence samples which simply don't know about genetic makeup of other variants that may be spreading.

4. Why BA.2.86 is a variant of interest

It is variant of interest because it has around 30 genetic changes from its parent which is B82 variant which is dubbed as omicron in the media. Omicron was designated as a different variant from its ancestral Covid variant which was delta which was the B 1.617.8.2. This seems to have as many changes as Omicron had from Delta.

5. Will previous vaccines work to prevent Pirola?

Whether the previous vaccines will work or not, we will have to wait and see because we do not know how long this variant has been getting transmitted. All those people who have had Covid and had more global vaccines and not specific RNA vaccines are expected to have some level of leverage. These companies have been updating their vaccines as the virus is evolving. If you have those vaccines in access and are eligible to take those vaccines, please continue to take them as advised by your local health body.

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