Netherlands Detects 'Centaurus' Covid Subvariant Feared 'Most Contagious Yet'


By Chris Jewers

The Netherlands announced on Wednesday it has become the latest country to detect a case of the Covid Omicron subvariant BA.2.75, as experts expressed concern about the strain's rapid spread.

The subvariant, nicknamed 'Centaurus', first emerged in India in May and has since spread to around 10 countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany and Australia.

It 'has also now been identified in the Netherlands,' the Dutch National Institute of Public Health said in a statement.

Some scientists fear the variant may be the most contagious seen yet, and better equipped to evade any immunity from vaccines and previous infection.

But there is no proof it causes any more serious disease than the original type of Omicron it evolved from, according to leading Covid experts.

'Little is known about BA.2.75,' the institute said, but it 'appears to more easily bypass the defences built up against SARS-CoV-2 through small, specific changes'.

The World Health Organisation's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said last week that the UN agency was closely tracking the strain, but there were 'limited sequences to analyse'.

'This sub-variant seems to have a few mutations on the receptor binding domain of the spike protein... so we have to watch that,' she said in a tweeted video.

She added that it was 'too early to know' how well the strain can evade immunity or how severe it was.

Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, said that BA.2.75's spread in India indicated it could be more transmissible than the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, which has been driving waves in Europe and the US.

'It seems to be becoming the dominant strain in India - the question is will it become the dominant strain all over the world?'

Flahault added that previous dominant strains, like Delta, had first taken over the country they emerged in before spreading across the world.

But he said there was a 'margin of unpredictability,' pointing to how BA.2.12.1 became dominant in the US but BA.5 'succeeded' when the two came in direct competition.

Flahault added that successive variants made developing a vaccine to fight them more difficult, because by the time one jab targeting them was ready to be rolled out, newer strains had taken over.

It was far too early to know about the severity of BA.2.75, he added.

The Dutch sample was collected in the northern region of Gelderland on June 26, the institute said, adding it was 'closely monitoring the situation' there.

Earlier this month, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control listed BA.2.75 as a 'variant under monitoring'.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert from the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline today that a BA.2.75 wave could be the least deadly yet.

It is not expected to strike Britain until later this year because it hasn't yet gained a strong enough foothold to displace BA.5.

What is BA.2.75?

This is an off-shoot of the BA.2 Omicron substrain that caused the last wave of Covid in April.

It was first detected in India in May and has been found in at least 10 other countries, including the UK and US.

Is it more dangerous?

Early analysis suggests BA.2.75 is more transmissible than both BA.2 and BA.5, which is behind the current uptick in cases in Britain.

But there is no evidence to suggest it is more likely to cause serious disease.

Should I be concerned?

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline a BA.2.75 wave could be the least deadly yet.

It is not expected to strike Britain until later this year, with cases too low to start pushing out BA.5 circulation currently.

Professor Hunter said people could have better protection when it does finally arrive because of a combination of the vaccine and recent infection this summer.


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