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Centaurus looms as a new Covid threat

“The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride,” wrote Washington Post sports editor Dan Cook in June 1978, giving birth to a popular cliché. The end of Covid has been called many times, some people even believe the propaganda that’s it’s over. You can be well advised, it's not over till it’s over.

Covid screening in India  where cases of BA.2.75 are rising (Mohd Arhaan Archer  AFP)
Covid screening in India where cases of BA.2.75 (Centaurus) are rising (Mohd Arhaan Archer AFP)

| Medscape

NEW YORK - Will Omicron's newest subvariant, BA.2.75, be the next one to worry about?

It was first found in early June in India and has now been detected in more than 20 countries, and researchers are waiting to learn whether it will substantially elevate case numbers after a wave of infections with BA.5.

The World Health Organisation is also closely watching the new variant although infectious disease experts say there's no cause for alarm – yet.

"Although detected in many other countries [besides India], there is no sign that it is spreading," says Eric Topol MD, editor-in-chief of Medscape, a website for health care professionals.

"I wouldn't panic yet," agrees Rajendram Rajnarayanan PhD, an associate professor at New York Institute of Technology who has been tracking BA.2.75.

But he is concerned about its spread. Right now, he says, it's spreading faster than the BA.5 variant in India.

He predicts BA.2.75 will spread more in the United Kingdom (where it's already arrived) and increase in the US. "This is exactly the pattern we've seen with every other variant," he says. By September, it could peak in the US.

"Right now, BA.2.75. seems to be the fastest of them all" in terms of spread. But like other variants it could follow a two-month cycle and begin to decline in October.

In a lab analysis posted on Twitter, Peking University professor Yunlong Cao found that BA.2.75 is more likely to escape detection by the immune system.

On 1 July, Twitter user Xabier Ostale, not an infectious disease professional, tired of waiting for BA.2.75 to get a Greek name and took the task on himself.

He dubbed the new variant ‘Centaurus’, from Greek mythology describing a half-human, half-horse creature. The name has stuck.

Having a name, instead of a string of letters and numbers, helps get messages across to the public, says Rajnarayanan, who's started to use #Centaurus on his Twitter posts.

He encourages the World Health Organisation to name all the variants. "You want to make sure people have something easy to go by," he says.


CentaurusMeanwhile, the science journal Nature reports that researchers have found signs that BA.2.75 is spreading faster than BA.5 in some countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It is forecast that BA.2.75 will continue to grow globally, particularly in Asia and Oceania - KJ


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