Centaurus’ subvariant of Omicron
Omicron BA.4 and BA.5: What to know about the new variants
The discovery of two new strains of coronavirus circulating around the world could mean trouble for researchers trying to figure out how the virus spreads. Scientists are calling the newly discovered strains “BA.2.7” and “Centaurus.” Both strains belong to the same family of viruses as the original strain of COVID-19, called SARS-CoV‑2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers announced the findings on Friday, Jan. 24. They found that the two strains differ slightly from each other, and from the original strain. This difference makes it harder for scientists to study the pathogen without having access to samples from patients infected with the new strains. Because of this, the CDC recommends that health care providers test all patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19.
Here is what you need to know about the new strains.
What is Centaurus?
According to the CDC, Centaurus is named after the constellation Centaurus. Researchers believe that the name came from a misreading of the genetic sequence of the virus. In fact, the name refers to the star Vega, which lies near the center of the constellation.
How did Centaurus come to light?
Scientists used the genetic sequences of SARS-CoVs collected from bats to identify potential mutations in human COVID-19 cases. They found that some of those cases carried a mutation in the gene coding for the spike protein of the virus. This particular mutation gave rise to the new strain, Centaurus.
Another descendant of Omicron
The Centaurus virus, a strain of coronavirus that emerged in China in December 2019, is another descendant of the original Omicron virus, according to virologist Dr. John McCauley. He shared his findings in a Twitter thread yesterday.
McCauley explained how he had identified the Centaurus strain while looking into the history of the SARS outbreak. In 2003, researchers isolated a coronavirus called SARSCoV-OC43 from patients who had contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). They found that it matched a strain known as HKU1, which was discovered in Hong Kong in 1997. This led scientists to believe that the SARSCoV-HKU1 strain could have originated in mainland China.
In late January 2020, the ECDC reported that a novel coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The virus, dubbed COVID-19, quickly spread throughout the country and beyond. By February 11, there were over 80,000 confirmed cases worldwide. On February 12, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
The way we think about viruses has changed over the centuries. From the time of ancient Greece onwards, people thought of them as tiny monsters, attacking plants and animals. In the 19th century, it was discovered that some diseases could spread from person to person. And in recent decades, researchers have identified viruses as being responsible for everything from common colds and flu to cancer and AIDS.
But what do viruses actually look like? How do they work? What makes one virus better than another? These questions inspired the creation of the Virus Classification Initiative (VCI), a project led by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Its aim is to classify every virus in existence into groups called taxa, based on shared characteristics such as structure and behaviour.
This classification scheme, known as the Pangolin nomenclature, is now used worldwide. For example, the name HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, while HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus.
used to identify coronavirus variants”
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no clear understanding of how many distinct viruses were circulating around the world. This uncertainty meant that people could make assumptions about whether they might have been infected by someone else, or whether they needed to take precautions against getting sick again.
To help address this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it would introduce a new way of identifying the genetic variations of the virus responsible for the outbreak. In May 2020, the organization published a list of COVID-19 strains grouped into five categories based on their similarity to each other.
The new classification system aims to provide a simple way to communicate the risk posed by specific variants of the disease, and is designed to prevent stigmatization and discrimination.
So far, the system has proved successful – although some scientists have criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the naming process.
The term “BA.2.75” refers to a strain of coronavirus discovered in late April in Wuhan, China. This is the second outbreak of COVID-19 in less than six months. In December, another viral strain called SARS-CoV-2 emerged in Wuhan, causing a global pandemic.
In January 2020, scientists reported finding genetic material related to the virus in bats. They named the new virus “bat-SL-CoVZC45”, and later renamed it “2019-nCoV”.
The acronym “BA.2.75” stands for Bat-SL-CoVZXC45, and was coined by Chinese virologists based on the date of the discovery of the virus: 19/4/2020.
As of today, the virus has spread to over 20 different countries, and the number of infected people continues to rise.
On February 24, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On March 11, the organization officially named the virus COVID-19, and on March 13, it announced a list of names for the strains of the virus, including “Omnibus Zoonotic Coronavirus 2019”, “Bat-SL-CoV-2” and “Human-to-human transmission”.
So far, no one knows how the virus spreads from person to person, although it seems to be transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets produced during coughing and sneezing.
Some experts believe that the virus might originate from animals; however, others say that it originated from humans.
Centaurus and the Twitterverse
The Greek alphabet system is often criticized for being difficult to learn and confusing. But one Twitter user named Xabier Ostale took things further by naming his newest variant of coronavirus, BA.2.75, after the constellation Centaurus.
Ostale, a Spanish citizen living in Greece, had been tweeting about COVID-19 since February 28th, when he first tweeted about the disease. He told Business Insider that he wanted to make sure people understood what he was saying, and that he didn’t want to use the word “coronavirus.”
He added that he likes the names he uses in his tweets, like BA.2.75 and BA.3.0, because they are easy to remember. And he thinks that people are more likely to understand nicknames than letters and numbers.
But some people weren’t happy with him changing the Greek alphabet system. They argued that it could confuse people into thinking that there was no danger associated with the virus.
And others thought that it was disrespectful to change the alphabet system. One person even suggested that he rename BA.2.75 to Centaurus, the name of the star cluster in the constellation Centaurus. But Ostale responded to those comments by explaining why he chose to call his new variant of the virus Centaurus.
“Not everybody is a PhD,” he wrote. “That’s why we’re talking about the stars and constellations. Get used to it.”
Risk of reinfections
A study published in Nature Medicine suggests that some people could be reinfected with SARS-CoV-2 — the virus behind COVID-19 — shortly after recovery from the disease. Researchers from Imperial College London analyzed data from nearly 200 patients across China, Italy, South Korea and Singapore. They found that around 11% of recovered patients had detectable viral RNA in their blood within four weeks of recovering from COVID-19.
But Dr. Gaunt notes that while the risk of reinfection is real, it is still low. “There is no reason to panic,” she said. “We’re talking about a very small percentage of people.”
She added that it is important to remember that the majority of cases involve mild symptoms, such as fever and cough. “In terms of clinical outcomes, the vast majority of people recover without needing hospitalization or intensive care,” she said.