South African scientists have found two new sublineages of the omicron coronavirus variety, according to Tulio de Oliveira, the country’s head of gene-sequencing institutes.
The lineages have been named BA.4 and BA.5, he announced via text message and a series of tweets. Nonetheless, according to de Oliveira, the lineages have not caused an increase in infections in South Africa and have been detected in samples from a number of countries, Bloomberg reported.
“Given the very low infections, hospitalizations and deaths in South Africa we are alerted about the continued evolution but not concerned,” de Oliveira, said by text message. “All of the laboratory science on virus neutralization and vaccines are already under way and we are strengthening genomic surveillance.”
In November, South Africa and Botswana were the first to find omicron, and South Africa was the first to see a wave of illnesses caused by the strain. Even while daily incidences reached an all-time high in December, hospitalizations and fatalities were a fraction of those caused by the delta variant.
“There is no cause for alarm” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa. “We are working with scientists in Botswana and South Africa to gain complete behavioral knowledge of these sublineages.”
The two lineages share identical mutations in their spike proteins, which enable the virus attach to human cells, to the BA.2 sublineage, which appears to be more infectious than the original omicron strain. He also mentioned that they had some more mutations.
He claims that the two sublineages differ in terms of amino acid mutations outside of the spike protein. Botswana has also declared the variants’ discovery.