Omicron’s new sub-variants BA.5.1.7 and BF.7 are signals to be cautious: Experts

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NEW DELHI: The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) is likely to issue a bulletin regarding Omicron’s new sub-variants BA.5.1.7 and BF.7 reported in India. “It’s just a signal to be cautious and watch the whole scenario, BF.7 was reported in Gujarat a few days ago,” sources said.

The BF.7 is reported in Gujarat which the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre has confirmed. The BF.7 is known as the ‘Omicron spawn’ that was first detected in China and now reached the United States, UK, Australia, and Belgium.

According to the sources, there is nothing to panic and surveillance of the situation is under way. “Nothing to panic, surveillance is going on, important point is that we should look at hospitalisation, deaths, currently. Despite new Omicron sub-lineages, there is no concern. But precautions must be taken to avoid transmission,” sources said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently said that Omicron VOC lineages may require prioritized attention and monitoring.

In light of the widespread transmission of the Omicron VOC across the globe and the subsequent expected increased viral diversity, WHO has added a new category to its variant tracking system, termed “Omicron subvariants under monitoring” to signal to public health authorities globally, which VOC lineages may require prioritized attention and monitoring. The main objective of this category is to investigate if these lineages may pose an additional threat to global public health as compared to other circulating viruses.

According to Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Health Expert and Covid Task Force member in Kerala, “These are immune escape variants. Ever since Omicron arrived in November 2021, it has been giving off branches which divide into smaller branches. Of these, BA.2 and BA.5 proved to be stronger than the rest.”

“From BA.2 and BA.5, a series of sublineages kept appearing. Each of these had additional mutations which were concentrated on the RBD (receptor binding domain) of the spike protein of the virus. This is the part that the virus uses to attach to the human cell,” he added.

The expert said that with convergent evolution involving about five frequently found mutations, the virus is now able to escape the immune response to the earlier versions, either from natural infection or through vaccination.
“This is why they are called immune evasive variants. BA.5.1.7 and BF.7 are names given to downstream descendants of BA.5,” Dr Rajeev said.

He asked people to take precautions, adding that the pandemic is yet not over. “What we must realise is that the pandemic is not over, and there will be periodic regional surges that especially coincide with festivals and group gatherings. Wearing masks indoors and preferring outdoor to indoor gatherings are safe options. The vulnerable individuals will need to be specially protected,” he said. (ANI)

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