HomeScienceWill Omicron BA.2 cause the Covid 4th wave? Scientists answer what's next

Will Omicron BA.2 cause the Covid 4th wave? Scientists answer what’s next

As an IIT Kanpur team predicts that the 4th COVID wave is likely to hit India in few months, the next quivering question is whether highly contagious Omicron BA.2 will lead to the surge. Indicating otherwise, a recent study has shown that the BA.1 provides strong protection against BA.2 subvariant. Hence, it is unlikely to cause a major wave of infections in communities that have experienced a BA.1 wave.

Omicron BA.1 provides protection against BA.2

“If BA.2 arrives in a community late, when the BA.1 Omicron wave is nearly over, immunity by Omicron infection and/or by boosting is likely to keep BA.2 from driving a second Omicron wave,” said Sarah Otto, an evolutionary biologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said, as quoted by the scientific journal Nature.

To study the effect of the subvariant, the authors – Troels Lillebaek, a molecular epidemiologist at the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, and his team looked into Denmark’s medical registries. 

And, they saw the BA.2 subvariant has been proliferating in Denmark since the start of this year, and currently comprises about 88% of all coronavirus cases. But the wave of BA.1 that preceded BA.2 is offering protection.

What did the IIT Kanpur study say? 

A recent study by a team of IIT Kanpur scientists has suggested that the fourth covid wave is likely to hit the country in mid to late June, and the surge is to continue for about 4 months, peaking in August. 

The authors said that the data indicates that the fourth wave of COVID-19 in India will arrive after 936 days from the initial data availability date, which is January 30, 2020. “Therefore, the fourth wave starts from June 22, 2022, reaching its peak on August 23, 2022 and ends on October 24, 2022,” they said and also added, “Moreover, the 99% confidence interval for the date, when the curve will reach the peak, is approximately from August 15, 2022 to August 31, 2022.”

Regarding the severity of the next wave, they said intensity will depend on various factors like infectibility, fatality etc of the next variant and vaccination status across the country. 

The study has been led by Sabara Parshad Rajeshbhai, Subhra Sankar Dhar and Shalabh of IIT Kanpur’s Mathametic department. It has been published as a pre-print in MedRxiv, but it is yet to be peer-reviewed.

What next? 

Another study has indicated that study that the next COVID variant can emerge in 2 different ways. “Omicron won’t be the final variant of concern. There are two likely scenarios going forward,” said Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, as quoted by Nature.

First, Omicron continues to evolve, creating some sort of Omicron-plus variant that is worse than BA. 1 or BA.2. The second possibility is that a new, unrelated variant appears. The latter scenario is what’s happened with each variant of concern so far.

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