A new Covid variant BA.2.86, which appears to be highly mutated from more recent versions of the coronavirus, is now in the UK.
Britain recorded a case of the new variant on August 18, joining Israel, Denmark and the US who also reported instances of the new strain.
The UK Health Security Agency said that the UK case was in a person with no recent travel history, suggesting a degree of community transmission within the UK.
Some virologists and experts are concerned about the variant dubbed Pirola because it has a large number of mutations, and it may be able to evade immunity from the Covid jabs or a recent infection with a different variant.
“BA.2.86 is the most striking SARS-CoV-2 strain the world has witnessed since the emergence of Omicron,” said Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology and director of University College London’s Genetics Institute.
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The genetic diversity suggests that Pirola has been in circulation for months, making symptoms awareness front and centre.
What are the key signs of Pirola?
Fortunately, Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, has shared the “common” signs of the Omicron spin-off with Express.co.uk.
He said: “As of now, we don’t have specific information about whether the symptoms of the Pirola variant differ significantly from other variants.”
Therefore, he recommended looking out for the following warning signs:
- Sore throat
- Runny or blocked nose
- Cough (with or without phlegm)
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While Pirola has a high rate of mutations in the spike protein, it’s currently unclear whether these mutations cause more severe symptoms.
“Therefore, it’s too early to definitively identify any unique tell-tale signs of this variant,” the professor added.
If you think you might have Covid, the professor recommended getting tested.
The NHS advises staying at home and avoiding contact with others if you or a family member have symptoms.
How dangerous is Pirola?
Information about Pirola’s transmissibility, severity, and symptoms are currently limited.
However, scientists have established the Omicron subvariant carries 30 more mutations in the spike protein compared to the previous dominant variant.
Dr Papadopoulos explained this suggests that Pirola could “potentially be more transmissible and severe”.
“However, we need to exercise caution in drawing definitive conclusions until further analyses, such as genomic sequencing and laboratory studies, are conducted,” he added.
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