HOUSTON – The COVID-19 virus is ever-changing and continuously evolves over time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has consistently mutated over the course of the pandemic, resulting in variants that are different from the original virus.
Many variants have been found in the United States and globally.
A brand new COVID variant labeled “BA.2.86″ has now been identified and reported in Texas. Researchers at Houston Methodist reportedly identified the variant and are concerned it could cause a spike in cases.
According to health officials, it is only the fourth reported case in the United States and was found in samples from either people or wastewater.
Global disease experts with the World Health Organization are monitoring the BA.2.86 variant and said it looks much different than the original version of the omicron variant.
What is a “variant classification”?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established a SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG) to enhance coordination among CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and Department of Defense (DoD). The group characterizes emerging variants and monitors their potential impact on vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Pango Lineage System
Lineages are named using an alphabetical prefix (such as B or BA) and numerical suffix (such as “.1″ or “.1.1.5″). When a new lineage is defined, the Pango system assigns an additional number to the name of its parent lineage (e.g., BA.2.75 is a sublineage of BA.2). The CDC said as the virus continues to change, the Pango lineage names can become very long. Lineages with longer names may be given alphabetic aliases and numbering continues (e.g., “BA” stands for “B.1.1.529,” thus BA.2 is the same as B.1.1.529.2).
Below is a list of the variants from the CDC that were recently discovered and are currently being monitored in the U.S.:
|WHO Label||Pango Lineage||Current Status||Date of Designation|
|N/A||Variants containing the F456L spike mutations*||Variant of Interest (VOI)||VOI: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||BA.2.86||Variants Being Monitored (VBM)||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||XBB.1.9.1||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||XBB.1.9.2||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||XBB.2.3||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||XBB.1.16||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||XBB.1.5||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||CH.1.1||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
|Omicron||BA.2.74||VBM||VBM: September 1, 2023|
When the new variant was first discovered, researchers said they feared it might become as powerful as the omicron variant, but so far, officials said that does not appear to be the case. At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness.
As far as the new COVID booster shot goes, the FDA said it is expected to be approved by them and signed off on by the CDC as early as the middle of September.