The Centaurus coronavirus sub-variant that is spreading fast in India and Europe could be more contagious than other strains and better at surpassing immunity afforded by vaccines and previous infection.
Centaurus, or BA.2.75, is a sub-variant of the Omicron strain that was first detected in India in early May, and has so far reached 14 countries, including Australia, Japan, Canada, the US, UK, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
In the UK, 14 cases of the Centaurus variant have been confirmed while the US has nine reported cases and Canada has four.
Virologists have expressed concerns about the new sub-variant as it can affect people who have been immunised.
However, it is not known yet whether it is more transmissible or associated with more severe cases of Covid-19 disease. The World Health Organisation has designated BA.2.75 as a sub-variant 'under monitoring'.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the variant was under monitoring on July 7 and escalated it to a variant of interest on July 14.
“This change was made due to an increasing number of detections in India and worldwide as well as the concerning mutation profile of this variant,” read a report from The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
“Such a profile might potentially be associated with a change in the antigenic properties of the virus, which could ultimately lead to a new surge in Covid-19 cases.
“No solid scientific evidence on the transmissibility, disease severity, or immune escape of BA. 2.75 is currently available.”
The Centaurus strain showed an increasing trend in India and accounted for 10 per cent of the sequenced genomes in the country in the past week, while early data for the next week pointed towards a further increase.
The sub-variant has spread rapidly through India and the fact that it has reached other countries has lead to concerns that it may be more transmissible than other strains.
The BA.2.75 strain was reported by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment on Wednesday.
Researchers in the Netherlands said the variant could be more contagious than previous forms of the virus, as it continues to mutate to evade immunity that has developed in populations since Covid-19 first broke out in 2020.
The Omicron has had five sub-variants that are being monitored closely.