NEW VARIANT. This sub-variant of Omicron is the majority in France. It accounts for 92% of positive covid tests. Monoclonal antibodies Ronapreve and Evusheld could be used in preventive treatments against BA.2 What are its symptoms? How dangerous is it? Is it possible to be re-infected?
[Mis à jour le 11 avril 2022 à 15h40] BA.2 is a subvariant of Omicron, itself a variant of Sars-CoV-2. BA.2 and responsible for the recent resumption of the epidemic. The symptoms of BA.2 infection are the same as those caused by Omicron: fatigue, cough, fever… The sub-lineage BA.2 is majority in Francerepresenting 92% of positive covid tests analyzed by Public Health France according to the epidemiological update of April 7. He is more contagious than the BA1 Omicron sub-variant which first appeared in France. But he does not present no more danger. French researchers from the Institut Pasteur have studied the effectiveness of Ronapreve monoclonal antibodies® (combination of two antibodies developed by Roche/Regeneron) and Evusheld® (combination of two antibodies developed by Astra Zeneca) against the Omicron variant (BA.1 and BA.2) of the coronavirus. Ultimately, BA.1, and to a lesser extent BA.2, is less sensitive to Evusheld® and Ronapréve® than Delta. “Antibodies and corresponding sera have little or no activity against BA.1, but are more active against BA.2. Compared to Delta, the neutralizing activity is more severely diminished against BA.1: it takes 344 times more antibodies to neutralize BA.1, and 9 times more to neutralize BA.2“explains Timothée Bruel, first author of the study published on March 23. What is this new mutation? of Covid-19? Is she more contagious, more dangerous, what Omicron? the vaccine effective against this new variant? What are the symptoms of BA.2 ? Update.
Definition: what is the new BA.2 variant?
“The BA.2 is a subvariant of Omicron. It is a “little cousin” of the Omicron variant“explained Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Scientific Council Covid, at the microphone of Franceinfo in January. Named BA.2, it is a sub-lineage of Omicron like BA.1 (which circulated so far) or BA .3. “The genetic sequence of the BA.2 subvariant differs from that of BA.1 and notably shows amino acid differences in the Spike protein and other proteins” the WHO said in February 2022.”The most recent data appear to confirm that BA.1 and BA.2 show similar severity and immune response evasion, and therefore BA.2 is not considered a distinct variant but is included in the Omicron VOC.” specifies Public Health France. However BA.2 “is the most contagious variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus we have seen so far“, alerted Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO, on March 19 at a press conference.
What is the rate of the BA.2 variant in France?
The BA.2 Omicron variant is now more present than the BA.1 variant, which has been circulating mainly since the end of 2021 in France. As of April 7, according to Public Health France, BA.2 represents 92% Omicron sequences analyzed over the week of March 21 to 27. “The progression of BA.2 to the detriment of BA.1 is observed on the whole of the metropolitan territory, but at different levels depending on the region. In the DROMs, BA.2 also seems to be increasing but the data needs to be consolidated“adds the organization.
What are the symptoms of the BA.2 variant?
For the moment, there are no specific symptoms listed on the cases of sub-variants BA.2. On the other hand for the Omicron variant “epidemiological investigations indicate a specific clinical presentation with more upper respiratory symptoms and less loss of taste and smell, as well as a lower severity (risk of hospitalization and admission to intensive care up to 80% lower)“reported Santé Publique France on January 26. Symptoms of the BA.2 variant (like Omicron in general) can be:
- Tiredness ;
- Cough ;
- Fever ;
- muscle aches or body aches;
- Sore throat ;
- Runny nose ;
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unpleasant breathing (more rarely)
- Loss of taste and smell (more rarely)
Is the BA.2 variant more contagious than Omicron?
“BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 (Secondary attack rate of 39% for BA.2 against 29% for BA.1). A study also estimates that the generation interval (time between two cases) of BA.2 is 15% lower than that of BA.1. These differences in transmissibility explain the rprogressive placement of BA.1 by BA.2 observed globally” emphasizes Public Health France on March 25. BA.2 “is the most contagious variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus we have seen so far“, said Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist at WHO, on March 19.
What are the risks of re-infection with BA2?
The frequency of possible reinfections with SARS-CoV-2 has increased significantly since the introduction and distribution in France of the Omicron variant, at the beginning of December 2021, notes Public Health France.
“The upward resumption of the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 observed for several weeks in France and theemergence of the Omicron BA.2 sub-lineage, majority since week 09-2022 are two factors that may play a role in the current trend of increasing numbers of reinfections” confirms the agency. Several recent studies have highlighted the possibility of occurrence of reinfection with BA.2 following infection with BA.1, including within a very short period of time (less than 60 days). “Nevertheless they agree on the fact that these are probably rare events.”
Is the BA.2 variant more dangerous than Omicron?
“Omicron’s BA2 subvariant does not “cause a more severe form” of Covid than BA1, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, epidemiologist in charge of the emerging diseases unit at the WHO, on March 19. However, with a large number of cases, you will see an increase in hospitalizations and this will turn into an increase in deaths.…”. She specified that there is no not “difference in terms of severity between BA1 and BA2“.
“In France, the screening strategy can detect all Omicron without distinction, whether they are BA.1 or BA.2 and therefore to know in a reactive way the level of circulation of the variant“indicates Public Health France. Secondly, a sequencing makes it possible to make the difference between the sub-variants, BA.1 and BA.2 “Screening makes it possible to reactively follow the Omicron as a whole and sequencing allows a finer analysis of the different sub-lineages [BA.1 ou BA.2]“.
Are vaccines effective against the BA.2 variant?
“The efficacy of the vaccine against symptomatic disease caused by BA.1 and BA.2 is similar: after two doses the efficacy is 10% for BA.1 and 18% for BA.2, after three doses the efficacy against symptomatic disease is 69% for BA.1 and 74% for BA.2 Efficacy drops to almost 50% two and a half months after the 3rd dose for BA.1 and BA.2“according to the study by the British health agency published on February 25.”This suggests that vaccination is at least as effective in preventing acquisition of BA.2 and may be more effective in preventing transmission of BA.2 than BA.1“, remarked the WHO.”L‘vaccine efficacy is maintained against Omicron after administration of a booster dose, especially against severe forms“confirmed Public Health France on January 26.
What treatments to prevent infection with the BA.2 variant?
Several treatments by monoclonal antibodies are available to prevent Covid-19 infection. Researchers from the Institut Pasteur, the CNRS, the Vaccine Research Institute (VRI), in collaboration with the CHR d’Orléans, the AP-HP, KU Leuven (Catholic University of Louvain) and Université Paris Cité studied theefficacy of two combinations of monoclonal antibodies therapies Ronapreve (combination of two antibodies developed by Roche/Regeneron) Where Evusheld (combination of two antibodies developed by Astra Zeneca) against the variant Omicron (BA.1 and BA.2) of the coronavirus. “We show that the antibodies and the corresponding sera are little or not active against BA.1, but are more active against BA.2. Compared to Delta, the neutralizing activity is more severely diminished against BA.1: it takes 344 times more antibodies to neutralize BA.1, and 9 times more to neutralize BA.2“, explains Timothée Bruel, first author of the study published on March 23 in Nature Medicine and researcher in the Virus and Immunity Unit at the Institut Pasteur (CNRS joint research unit). Four Omicron infections have been described among the 29 patients treated with antibodies (including one severe case). “This indicates that, in this case, the treatment does not fully protect against infection or severe forms“explains Thierry Prazuck, co-lead author of the study and head of the infectious diseases department at CHR d’Orléans.
– “Serum neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 sublines in patients receiving monoclonal antibodies”, Nature Medicine, March 23, 2022
– “SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England”, British Health Agency, 25 February 2022
– “Coronavirus: circulation of SARS-CoV-2 variants’, updated on February 25, 2022, Public Health France
-“BA.2 is more transmissible than BA.1 but vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and to transmit the infection”, January 31, Statens Serum Institut.
– COVID-19: epidemiological update of January 27, 2022, Public Health France
– “Risk analysis on emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2”, January 26, 2022, Public Health France.
-“Now a variant of Omicron, BA.2, accounts for nearly half of all Danish Omicron cases” January 20, 2022, Statens Serum Institut.