Covid evolving into more contagious variants

Covid evolving into more contagious variants

According reports, Bangladesh is witnessing a resurgence of the pandemic, Covid-19.

The update of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) says, in 24 hours till Sunday morning 1,680 people were found Covid-positive, while two people died of the disease. However, the number of deaths in a single day was higher on Saturday at three.This was quite a jump in the fatality rate considering that only one death was reported on Thursday (June 23) from the reemerging pandemic.

The reports of fresh  incidence of Covid-19have naturally aroused questions in the public's mind.Is itthe same old Omicron variant of the Covid-19 that swept across the country since mid-December last year  and whosepositivity rate had recently come down to virtually nil?

Butthenews of a new type of infection has also come from Jashore, thanks to the scientists at the Genome Centre of the Jashore University of Science and Technology (JUST).

The scientists at JUST found two men, aged 44 and 79, infected by a new subvariant of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 called BA.4/5. Obviously, there is reason for the health authorities of Bangladesh to be on high alert.

Notably, scientists of the same universityhad also discovered the arrival of Delta variant as well as the earlier versions of Omicron in the country.

According to the JUST researchers,this is a new, mutated version of the  Omicron variant of the Covid-19.  And through mutation in its spike protein, it has become much more contagious than earlier Covid variants so much so that it can evade the immunity in the body created by vaccination or by earlier infections. It is exactly whathappened in the case of the two new Covid cases now under observation in Jashore. 

The current Covid infection rateas of Sunday as provided by DGHS was 15.66 per cent. It definitely marks a significant jump in the Covid cases in the country.The figure makes it plain that this latest round of infection is on a sharply rising curve.

One wonders if all the cases of the increased positivity are due to the new BA.4/5 subvariant of the Omicron or a mix of the old and the new.

It may be recalled that the BA.4/5 was first reported from South Africa early this year, a development scientists termed the fifth wave of Covid infection in that country. And last month (May), it appeared as the third wave in India.

The Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, are already the dominant strains of Omicron in the US and the UK. In the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 25 per cent of the new infections have been found to be due to BA.5 subvariant, while 11 per cent account for BA.4.

A study conducted by the Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found that as quoted by the Fortune magazine, 'BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants "substantially escape neutralizing antibodies by both vaccination and infection."'

The study report further suggests that "the Omicron variant has continued to evolve with increasing neutralization escape."

What all these studies imply is that the Omicron and its subvariants like the latest BA.4 and BA.5 are in the process of evolution and with each transformation  they are getting more transmissible and cleverer at evading immunity.

As a protective measure against this new version of the pandemic,vaccination drive along with booster doses should be in force. At the same time, no slackening in the observance of the mandatory health guidelines including wearing facemask and maintaining social should be tolerated.


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