UW virologists closely monitoring new highly-transmissible omicron variant

SEATTLE, Wash. — The UW Medicine Clinical Virology Laboratory is closely watching a new subvariant of omicron called BA.2.

UW Medicine and scientists around the world are tracking the effects of the subvariant. Dr. Alex Greninger, a UW virologist, says the original omicron strain (BA.1) is the dominant variant.

“We need to see if this [BA.2] is something that will actually move,” said Greninger. “It’s actually kind of ironic to talk about another variant at a time [when] we’re still at the peak of BA.1.”

The BA.2 variant is growing rapidly around the world. The subvariant accounts for about half of all new COVID-19 cases in Denmark. The United Kingdom says BA.2 is “under investigation.”

BA.2 seems to be more transmissible than the original omicron variant, but it may be less dangerous. Greninger says more research is needed.

“We haven’t seen any data to suggest it’s worse from a hospitalization standpoint,” said Greninger. “What we know is it’s increasing in frequency. It has a little bit of a transmissibility edge over the BA.1.”

UW will continue to monitor the new subvariant as more global data comes in.

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