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BA.2 Omicron Variant: What Scientists are Saying About Omicron’s Subvariant

As we head into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of concern and frustration abound. You’re not alone if you wonder, “When will this finally be over?” 


Unfortunately, as with any virus, new variants are inevitable. The latest variant is a version of omicron, named BA.2. 


In this article, we’re detailing the latest information on BA.2, its severity level, and what infectious disease experts are saying about its trajectory and potential impacts. 


Keep reading to learn: 

  • Characteristics of the new variant and where it was first discovered. 
  • What scientists are saying about the effects and impacts of BA.2. 
  • Whether current COVID-19 tests detect the new variant. 

We are committed to keeping you in the know and up to date on the latest COVID-19 information. For the latest updates, visit Lucira’s Blog and News Page


What You Need to Know About BA.2 


What is the BA.2 Variant? 


BA.2 is a descendant of the omicron variant. Researchers refer to the original omicron variant as BA.1. 


In January 2022, the WHO reported the first BA.2 infections in Denmark, India, and the United Kingdom. Shortly after BA.2’s discovery, South Africa and the U.S. reported their first cases. California, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington were the first U.S. states to report the presence of BA.2. At the time of this article, BA.2 cases have been reported in nearly half of U.S. states. 


Scientists found BA.2 thanks to more widespread and advanced genetic sequencing that detects changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus more quickly and can determine the extent to which those mutations might impact one’s health. 


How Transmissible is BA.2? 


On Tuesday, Feb 1, 2022, the WHO announced that they are tracking omicron’s subvariant BA.2, but the data thus far is “really quite limited” due to the subvariant being coined “stealth omicron.”  


This variant is referred to as a stealth subvariant due to a mutation that makes it slightly more difficult to detect. Luckily, experts say that it is still traceable. 


Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, spoke at a press conference on the variant, stating that “there is a suggestion” that BA.2 has “an increased growth and transmission rate compared to BA.1,” based on their initial data. However, “beyond that, the data is really quite limited,” Van Kerkhove added. 


Is this New Variant More Concerning than the Original Omicron? 


Although not a lot is known about BA.2 to date, the WHO is closely monitoring the variant and its characteristics. 


Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergency program, stated that the WHO is tracking these variants and the sub-lineages closely, and in time, will know “if the behavior of the virus is changing, and that will allow us to make good decisions about public health policy.” Overall, the WHO emphasized that they take all new lineages and variants seriously and approach them with genuine concern. 


What Else is Known About the Variant’s Characteristics? 


Compared to the delta variant, many studies have shown that the BA.1 variant carries a reduced risk of severe disease. According to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong from the University of California San Francisco, preliminary evidence from Denmark suggests that omicron BA.2 will also carry a reduced risk of severe disease compared to the delta variant, just like BA.1. 


Chin-Hong notes that “scientists [in Denmark] have found that there was no increased risk in going to the hospital if you have BA.2 compared to if you have BA.1. That could change, but that’s what we know so far.” 


Will Current COVID-19 Tests Detect the New Variant? 


While COVID-19 tests can’t tell you which variant you might have, they can tell you whether or not an infection is present, regardless of the variant.  


Accuracy can vary from test to test, and there have been reports of some antigen tests having reduced sensitivity to the Omicron variant in general, but not specific to the BA.2 subvariant. 


Lucira’s molecular at-home tests accurately detect the presence of both BA.2 and BA.1, in addition to Delta and the other Variants of Concern (VOC) that have been identified. To order at-home COVID-19 tests for individual and family use, CLICK HERE. Healthcare providers can purchase tests in bulk via the link HERE. 


Stay Up to Date with Lucira 


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, Lucira is committed to providing you with the most up-to-date and accurate information possible. Check back with Lucira for more information on the BA.2 variant and how it is being managed worldwide. 


For the latest news regarding COVID-19 and how you can keep yourself safe, visit our Blog and News Page.

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