Covid-19: Should we be worried about Pirola, this new variant now present in France?

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Virus Detected in particular in Spain, was placed under surveillance by the World Health Organization (WHO), and a first case was identified this Thursday in France

Covid-19: Should we be worried about Pirola, this new variant now present in France?

With its many mutations, Pirola could lead to immune escape. Enough to cause an epidemic rebound? — Fred Scheiber

  • In recent days, a new variant of Covid-19 has been discovered. It is BA.2.86, also called Pirola.
  • Identified in half a dozen countries, Pirola is now present in France, where a first case was reported on Thursday.
  • With a very large number of mutations, could Pirola cause a new massive wave of contamination? “20 Minutes” takes stock of what we know about him.

Another newcomer to the Omicron family. On August 17, “WHO” under surveillance a new variant carrying many mutations, the BA.2.86 variant, which once again underlines the need for for all countries to continue monitoring activities, ”said the organization’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus the next day.

Why this last sub-variant identified, and since baptized Pirola, is he in the sights of the WHO? Should we be worried about seeing it arrive in France, where a first case was detected? And could it cause an epidemic rebound in Europe? 20 Minutes takes stock of what we know.

Many mutations but little information

If Pirola already arouses attention, it’s because this new variant has “a significant number of mutations that could help the virus escape from the immune response,” the Italian press agency Ansa Pr Massimo Ciccozzi, director of the Unit’ of Molecular Statistics and Epidemiology from the Campus Bio-Medico in Rome, and co-author of an article on the Pirola variant published in Rome. in Journal of Medical Virology. Of the approximately 30 mutations observed, “two in particular need to be monitored as they could make it more transmissible.

And while scientists say they still lack information on Pirola, “the increase in mutations is a significant change, similar to the jump that occurred between the Delta and Omicron variants,” says Roger Paredes, Chief from the Infectious Diseases Department of the Germans Trias Hospital in Pujol, in Catalonia, in an interview with the media El Périodico. In November 2021, Omicron, discovered in South Africa, had in a few weeks supplanted the Delta variant at internationally.

On the other hand, Pirola does not seem to be associated with to this day at; particular symptoms. “From what little data is available, they look like those of the flu, with a fever at 38°C for a few days, severe cold and headaches, detailed Professor Ciccozzi. As with some of the later variants, it is no longer characterized by by asymptomatic cases”.

Identified in several countries including France

It’s the 24th of July that this new variant was released. found in Denmark. It has since been detected in South Africa, the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, but also in Sweden, Portugal and Canada, according to the Gisaid database. As well as in Spain, in Catalonia, a border region of France. But Pirola is now also present in France, according to Gisaid, which indicates this Thursday that a first case of the new variant has been reported. sequenced in the country.

“What is particularly interesting is that, unlike other variants, there is no epidemiological link between the different cases, observes Professor Ciccozzi. That is, they do not appear to be linked to each other.

Epidemiological effects still unknown

While under the effect of Eris, another sub-variant of Omicron, the contaminations go back to normal. the rise, could Pirola cause an epidemic rebound of the Covid-19 in Europe and in the world? “The potential impact of BA.2.86 mutations is not known at this time,” WHO said, reiterating its call for support. “better monitoring, sequencing and reporting of Covid-19 cases, as this virus continues to circulate and evolve” Although the coronavirus “is no longer a global health emergency, it remains a health threat. World,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The data is still patchy, but some scientists are already sketching out the data. possible trajectories. Pirola “has all the hallmarks of something that could take off, however, our immune landscape is now complex, so it’s too early to say it will, ahead of X [Twitter] Kristian G. Andersen, Danish researcher in infectious diseases and genomics. But I think it”s possible.

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For Prof. François Balloux, professor of computational biology at; University College London, “BA.2.86 is the most striking Sars-CoV-2 strain the world has seen. witnessed since the emergence of Omicron”,” reports the British medical journal. But, reassures Professor Balloux, “even in the worst case, where BA.2.86 would cause a new wave of cases, we do not expect; attend comparable levels of severe disease and death as we saw earlier in the pandemic when the Alpha, Delta, or other Omicron subvariants spread. ».