The new Covid variant, known as Pirola, is ‘no more likely’ to evade antibodies than other recent variants, according to early government data.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has published its latest analysis of the BA.2.86 variant, which also found that there is currently no evidence to suggest it is more likely to make people seriously ill.
Initial findings from UKHSA testing into the effectiveness of lateral flow devices in detecting this Covid variant indicated that there is ‘no reduction in sensitivity compared to previous variants’.
There were 54 confirmed cases of BA.2.86 in the UK as of 18 September – of the 48 cases in England, 10 were hospitalised and there have been no known deaths.
UKHSA’s chief medical advisor Professor Susan Hopkins said the early data is ‘encouraging’, and emphasised the importance of the most vulnerable patients being fully vaccinated against Covid.
She said: ‘While this is still very early data and more research is needed before we can be certain, it is encouraging to see an initial indication that BA.2.86 demonstrates similar levels of antibody escape compared to other variants circulating in the UK.
‘The available data is too limited to draw conclusions about the severity of the illness it causes, but there is so far no evidence to suggest that it is more likely to make people seriously ill than other Omicron variants in circulation.’
The agency’s briefing included early laboratory data from its own Vaccine and Development Evaluation Centre, the University of Oxford, and the Glasgow Centre of Virus Research.
In a recent letter to providers, NHS England reiterated expert advice that BA.2.86 is the most concerning since Omicron first emerged.
Last week, the BMA’s GP Committee in England called for an investigation into the Government and NHS England’s ‘mismanagement’ of this year’s vaccination programme.