What To Know About Covid Pirola: How New Lineage BA.2.86 Differs From Other Variants


                                                             By Mary Walrath-Holdridge

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have announced another addition to their lists tracking variants of COVID-19 — and this one may be a little different.

Described by the CDC as a new lineage of the virus that causes COVID-19, the mutation has some distinctions from other currently circulating variants.

BA.2.86, nicknamed Pirola, was added to the CDC watch list on Thursday, following its addition to the WHO' SARS-CoV-2 variant monitoring list, garnering attention despite the small number of officially reported cases. Though there were only seven confirmed cases reported by the CDC as of August 19, the virus has been detected in multiple countries on multiple continents, including the United States, Denmark, Israel and the U.K.

What is the COVID variant Pirola ?

Pirola is a nickname given to BA.2.86, a new lineage of virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Rajendram Rajnarayanan, Assistant Dean of Research and Associate Professor at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, said that BA.2.86, in simpler terms, is one of the 1,680 omicron lineages.

Numerous omicron lineages are still circulating globally, but BA.2.86 is a descendant of Omicron BA.2, which is not currently in circulation.

Rajnarayanan said this lineage has "significantly diverged from BA.2" and the other currently circulating variants, such as XBB.1.5, which is the antigen used in vaccines.

Classified by the WHO as having a "large number of mutations," Pirola has 30 spike protein mutations that differ from XBB.1.5, said Rajnarayanan, meaning it is more immune-evasive or more likely to subvert immunities built up by your body.

"The emergence of BA.2.86 is reminiscent of the original omicron (BA.1) scenario, with major differences," said Rajnarayanan. "During BA.1 times, we were actively testing, sequencing, and rapidly reporting data. However, since the end of the WHO Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in May and the USA's Public Health Emergency (PHE), COVID testing and genomic sequencing have been significantly reduced."

Where is the new variant Pirola spreading?

Pirola has been detected in four countries, including Denmark, Israel, the U.S. and U.K.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, one case of BA.2.86 was detected in Washtenaw County, Michigan, last week. The case reportedly impacted an older adult who showed "mild" symptoms that did not immediately require hospitalization.

According to the statement, officials are unsure if the new lineage poses any risks beyond the variants that are already widely circling.

With many states and countries no longer reporting to a centralized COVID tracking system, cases are now generally tracked by less reliable standards, largely hospitalizations and wastewater data.

Even these limited standards have shown a recent increase in cases in a number of countries, however, including the U.S. CDC data ending the week of August 5 showed weekly hospitalizations were up 14.3% from 9,026 to 10,320.

In England, there was a 17.4% increase in hospitalizations the week ending August 12 versus the seven days prior, according to the UKHSA.

"BA.2.86 indeed carries the risk of becoming internationally widespread. As it spreads, it could accumulate more mutations," said Rajnarayanan, noting that it's already circulating in five countries across three continents. "BA.2.86 possesses the characteristics of a successful lineage that could potentially outcompete existing variants."

However, Rajnarayanan also said population-level immunity in the USA is relatively high, meaning BA.2.86 may not cause a surge like omicron BA.1 initially did.

"These are still early days, so vigilance and preparation are key," said Rajnarayanan. "Consider likely scenarios, as we've been living with COVID for over 3 years, and most of us know how to protect ourselves, (yet most of us may not practice or use tools at hand)."

What are the symptoms of Pirola?

Because BA.2.86 is so new, it is not yet known if it will present any unique symptoms. As a result, the CDC said indicators to look out for and advice on protecting yourself remains the same as with existing variants. Some symptoms may include:

-Runny or stuffy nose




-Sore throat


-Changes to sense of smell

What to do if you test positive

Rajnarayanan said Pirola's spike mutations may mean existing boosters don't prevent infection but can still offer protection against severe disease and death.

"When sick, get tested. If positive, stay home until better and confirm with a negative test. If that's not possible, wear a fit N95 mask," said Rajnarayanan. "Get Boosted as soon as its available. It works against all of the top circulating lineages including XBB.1.16, EG.5.1, FL.1.5.1 etc."

If you believe you may have COVID or test positive, the CDC suggests several ways to treat the symptoms and stop the spread.

-Stay home and separate from others.

-Improve ventilation in your home.

-Mask with an N-95 or other high-quality mask when around other people.

-Keep up to date on COVID vaccines and boosters.

-Monitor symptoms and stay in touch with your healthcare provider.

-Take medications and treatments as prescribed.

-Rest and use over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms like headache.

-Practice hygiene such as washing hands often and cleaning shared surfaces.

-Use their testing and treatment location tool to find resources in your area.


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