As Covid cases continue to rise in Europe and the BA.2.86 variant, monitored by the WHO, has been detected at the gates of Europe, should we fear an outbreak of cases this fall? Dr Gérald Kierzek, medical director of TipsForWomens, answers us.
It was monitored by the World Health Organization since August 18 because of its many mutations, the BA.2.86 variant nicknamed Pirola, is now very close. Several cases have thus been identified in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Spain. Should we be worried about the coming fall?
What do we know about the dangerousness of Pirola?
To date, the surveillance status of the Pirola variant is not linked to its dangerousness. This has been classified “in the category of variants under surveillance because of the very large number (greater than 30) of mutations of the Spike gene that it carries”as revealed by the World Health Organization in its latest epidemiological report.
As a reminder, it is this Spike protein that allows Covid to infect victims. According to experts, the Spanish media The newspaper, this peculiarity of Pirola would make it “a significantly different virus”. This could be comparable “to the jump that occurred between the Delta and Omicron variants”reveals Roger Paredes, head of infectious diseases Badalona in the Spanish media The newspaper.
For Massimo Ciccozzi, director of the Molecular Statistics and Epidemiology Unit at the Bio-Medico campus in Rome, who is also studying the variant, “there is no indication to consider this a new variant of significant concern and further data is needed to understand whether the variant will be dangerous or not.”
“The only question to ask is that of the effectiveness of the vaccine booster”
In Europe, Pirola has still not been identified. But the country is not rid of Covid for all that: according to the latest bulletin from Public Health Europe, infections with the Eris variant are on the rise and “most lab-confirmed positive cases in week 33 are from all six regions, five of which are the same as in the past two weeks“. These are Occitanie, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Île-de-Europe and New Aquitaine. What would encourage a breakthrough for Pirola for all that?
Dr. Gérald Kierzek, medical director of TipsForWomens, invites us to remain pragmatic: “Whether we like it or not, this variant will arrive in Europe, there is no discussion about it, viruses know no borders. But it is not a question of panicking: it is a virus which mutates as it has done, as it always will, and which remains under surveillance. The only question that will arise quickly is that of the vaccine booster and its ability to target this new variant.”
This booster will be offered as a co-vaccine with the flu, from October.