Two new Omicron sublineages discovered by SA scientists

The lineages have been named BA.4 and BA.5.
Image: Universal Images Group/Getty Images

South African scientists have discovered two new sublineages of the omicron coronavirus variant, said Tulio de Oliveira, who runs gene-sequencing institutions in the country.

The lineages have been named BA.4 and BA.5, he said by text message and in a series of tweets. Still, de Oliveira said, the lineages have not caused a spike in infections in South Africa and have been found in samples from a number of countries.

“Given the very low infections, hospitalisations and deaths in South Africa we are alerted about the continued evolution but not concerned,” de Oliveira, said by text message. “All of the laboratory science on virus neutralisation and vaccines are already under way and we are strengthening genomic surveillance.”

South Africa and Botswana were the first to discover omicron in November and South Africa was the first country to be hit by a wave of infections caused by the strain. Hospitalisations and deaths were a fraction of those caused by the delta variant even as daily cases hit a record in December.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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