The latest genomic sequencing report from the Center of Emerging Viral Threats (CEVT) at LSU Health Shreveport found that all COVID-19 positive samples sequenced were the Omicron variant, with one sample being the BA.2 sublineage.
While this is the first time that BA.2 has been detected in north Louisiana, it is not a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. BA.2 is a subvariant of the Omicron lineage that is currently dominant in the United States. There are three lineages of the Omicron variant – BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3 – as of February 2022. The prevalence of BA.2 in new cases of COVID-19 has increased in countries like Denmark and South Africa but is still low in the United States.
Findings from preliminary studies on the BA.2 Omicron subvariant show there are key differences from BA.1.
“Early studies from a Japanese lab that have not yet undergone peer review indicate BA.2 may cause more severe disease than the BA.1 sublineage. In these early studies, the antigencity is also different between the two lineages of Omicron, meaning that it is possible BA.2 may interact differently with the host immune system. These are early data and must be interpreted with caution, but they provide potential valuable insight about BA.2,” said Krista Queen, PhD, Director of Viral Genomics and Surveillance for the Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats at LSUHS.
Comprehensive research on virus variants is ongoing while scientists and public health officials continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and detect variants that are circulating among populations using important data that genomic sequencing provides.
“Mutations in viruses are not uncommon and variants are expected to arise. The good news is that we have the resources within the Center of Emerging Viral Threats to sequence SARS-CoV-2 genomes,” said Queen. “Without this, our genomic surveillance efforts in north Louisiana would not be as successful. Because of sequencing we can determine what variants are circulating in communities and better understand how the virus is changes, and how quickly these changes are occurring. This information not only helps public health officials make more informed decisions but is also shared with other scientists who are studying and tracking the prevalence of COVID-19 around the world.”
To date, the EVT Viral Genomics and Sequencing Lab has completed genome sequencing for more than 12,000 COVID-19 test samples and remains the top submitter in the state of Louisiana to the global GISAID database.
Learn more about the Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats at www.lsuhs.edu/covid19.