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COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 found in Germany

September 13, 2023

The highly mutated COVID-19 variant has recently been detected in countries like Denmark, the UK and the US. It has been labeled a "variant under monitoring" by the WHO.

Lab workers analyze coronavirus tests
Experts say the new variant shows over 30 mutations compared to its predecessor Image: Oliver Berg/dpa/picture alliance

A new variant of the coronavirus called BA.2.86 has been detected in Germany for the first time, the Robert Koch-Institut (RKI) said on Wednesday.

In its weekly report, the federal government agency said the variant, also known as Pirola, had been found in the week leading up to August 27.

Acute respiratory infections have been on the rise in Germany since July, the RKI further reported.

What do we know about new variant?

BA.2.86 has so far been detected in several countries, including Denmark, the USA, the UK and Israel. The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled BA.2.86 one of seven "variants under monitoring," the lowest of three tiers in the UN body's tracking system.

Experts say it is notable because it shows multiple differences from previous versions of the Coronavirus. This may affect how immunized or vaccinated people react to it.

"BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines," according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preliminary data suggests vaccines will give protection against it, the WHO says.

Is COVID making a comeback?

Last week, the WHO warned of "concerning trends for COVID-19 ahead of the winter season in the northern hemisphere" at a virtual press conference.

It said a new Coronavirus variant called EG.5, also known as Eris, was on the rise globally. The WHO has categorized it as a "variant of interest" – one above BA.2.86, but not yet a  "variant of concern."

Data on Coronavirus infections is currently limited as many countries have stopped reporting deaths and hospitalizations. Experts warn that it is vital nations continue to report Covid-related statistics.

fg/jcg (dpa,Reuters)

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