A virus has the ability to mutate, adapt, and evolve, much like any other species on this planet. The coronavirus has been able to change itself into different variants and strains, but none impacted the world as fiercely as the Delta variant. Now that a sub-variant of this deadly strain has been found, scientists are closely investigating if and how this altered virus will change the course of the pandemic.
A new strain
The sub-variant, officially known as AY.4.2, has been rapidly making its way across the UK, putting itself on the radar of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The week beginning 27 September it was responsible for 6% of all COVID cases, and recent data has revealed that the figure almost doubled to 11.3% between 18 and 24 October. This evidence has led experts to believe that the sub-variant could be the most dominant in the UK by January.
According to The Independent, Dr. Jeffrey Barrett, the director of COVID-19 Genomics Initiative, says that the variant could ‘eventually displace its Delta predecessor’ by January. He added:
I think it will happen.
Impact of the sub-variant
However, he also believes that AY.4.2 will not have as deadly of an impact as the Delta variant did. He continued:
All else being equal, it will increase cases, and hospitalisations by a modest amount, but it is a much smaller relative change than Delta had compared to Alpha, so won’t fundamentally change things in the same way.
While the variant is thought to be 10% more transmissible, some scientists are also arguing that the rise in numbers is because there is no longer a strategy in place to curb the spread of COVID. Professor Sam Wilson, a virologist from the University of Glasgow said:
AY.4.2 isn’t the underlying problem.
The problem is that allowing the virus to spread in a relatively uncontrolled fashion increases the probability that more troublesome variants arise.