UK records first case of new COVID-19 variant

By Lara Adejoro

The United Kingdom Health Security Agency has confirmed the first case of COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 in the country.

The UKHSA disclosed this on its website on Friday.

It said the case was confirmed in an individual with no recent travel history, which suggests a degree of community transmission within the UK.

The World Health Organisation and the US health authorities had on Thursday, said they were closely monitoring a new variant of Covid-19, although the potential impact of BA.2.86 is currently unknown.

WHO designated the COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 as a ‘variant under monitoring’ due to the large number of mutations it carries.

So far, only a few sequences of the variant have been reported from a handful of countries.

The BA.2.86 variant has also been identified in Israel, Denmark, and the United States of America.

It has been designated as V-23AUG-01 for the purpose of UKHSA monitoring.

The newly identified variant has a high number of mutations and is gnomically distant from both its likely ancestor, BA.2, and from currently circulating XBB-derived variants.

There is currently insufficient data to assess the relative severity or degree of immune escape compared to other currently-circulating variants.

The Deputy Director, UKHSA, Dr Meera Chand said, “V-23AUG-01 was designated as a variant on the basis of international transmission and significant mutation of the viral genome. This designation allows us to monitor it through our routine surveillance processes.

“We are aware of one confirmed case in the UK. UKHSA is currently undertaking detailed assessment and will provide further information in due course.”

The PUNCH reports that all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time; most changes have little to no impact on the virus’s properties.

However, some changes may affect the virus’s properties, such as how easily it spreads, the associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures.

Globally, as of August 16, 2023, there have been 769,774,646 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,955,141 deaths, reported to WHO.

As of August 13, 2023, a total of 13,498,472,794 vaccine doses have been administered.

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