NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— Scientists in New Orleans have detected two new subvariants of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, Louisiana State University announced on Tuesday.
According to the university, three cases of the BE.1 and one case of the BF.1 were discovered at the LSU Health Precision Medicine Lab after a series of tests conducted in late June. Researchers say the subvariants had not yet been detected in the United States until now.
“Their possible clinical and public health significance is still unknown,” head of Genetics and facility co-director Dr. Lucio Miele said in a statement Tuesday.
Miele says that while doctors aren’t sure how the variants originated, they will be comparing these samples with other cases across the state to learn more about how humans and animals contract, battle, and spread different variants of the disease.
“The pattern that is emerging from the data is one whereby once a dominant variant emerges, such as Delta and Omicron, the genetic diversity of the virus temporarily drops as the new variant takes over. After that, multiple subvariants emerge from mutations of the dominant variant. This is the most important time to monitor the emergence of new subvariants, especially if their numbers start increasing, and determine what’s different about them.
This kind of information is critical to understanding transmission or resistance to therapeutics.
Variants of SARS-CoV-2 have become increasingly better able to spread and to evade immunity. Omicron is more transmissible than Delta was, and Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 seem to have the ability to infect people who were immune to earlier variants and subvariants. Some have also shown resistance to monoclonal antibodies used to reduce the severity of COVID-19.“Dr. Lucio Miele, LSU Health New Orleans
Miele says that LSU, along with Ochsner, BIE, and the state health department will continue to conduct and compare research to better understand the Omicron subvariants and what they mean for Louisiana.