What the heck is Centaurus?
BA.2.75 is a sub-lineage of SARS-COV-2 Omicron that evolved from the BA.2 Omicron lineage family. It was first detected in India in early May 2022. On Tuesday, July 12th, 2022 the WHO held a press conference where it was mentioned that there were only about 200 sequences of BA.2.75 across 14 countries. India is the predominant country where BA.2.75 has been detected but it has also been detected in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and various European countries.
This subvariant was nicknamed “Centaurus” by a Twitter user on July 1, 2022. The media has also subsequently used this nickname and it has kind of stuck. In reality, the only group that can name the coronavirus variants is the World Health Organization technical assessment group on viral evolution (TAG VE).
Since this variant is under the BA .2 sub-lineages it will continue to be tracked by The WHO as Omicron unless sufficient evidence arises that this strain has viral characteristics substantially different than what is already known about Omicron.
This BA.2.75 sub-lineage has not been deemed a “variant of concern” at this time; it is currently being monitored as an “Omicron subvariant under monitoring”. This means that the lineage has been flagged and prioritized as deserving of attention and monitoring. BA.2.75 has several mutations on the receptor binding protein of the spike protein and additional mutations outside the spike protein.
It is really too early to tell whether this variant is more severe or has greater immune escape capability compared to BA .5 (the variant predominantly circulating now). A very early analysis suggests it *could* have a growth advantage over BA.4 and BA.5 but the researcher acknowledges that we do not currently have enough data to determine reliable estimates, and that additional monitoring is needed to draw conclusions.
Importantly, variants are now arriving as surveillance and testing is on the decline around the globe. This means that we are at a disadvantage with respect to detecting, tracking and researching new variants.
As much as we all want to get back to pre-pandemic life, remember that employing common-sense measures to prevent the spread of the virus (masking, ventilation/gathering outside, testing before gathering) will also prevent the emergence of new variants
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