A NEW Covid variant has arrived in the UK and US – but experts have given little indication of its severity.
BA.2.75, nicknamed Centaurus, was first detected and is spreading rapidly in India.
It is a relative of Omicon, the original strains of which were shown to be more mild Covid illness (BA.1 and BA.2).
Health chiefs, however, do not know how new versions of Omicron (BA.2.75, BA.4 and BA.5) compare.
But it is feared that Centaurus is even more infectious than Omicron strains that have come before it.
The UK has seen 18 cases to date, and is among roughly 10 countries where Centaurus has been detected.
Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA said: “We are aware of a small number of cases of the emergent variant Omicron BA.2.75 in the UK.
“At this point, it is too early to draw conclusions about the relative transmissibility of this variant, or the illness it may cause, compared to the currently-dominant variants.
“UKHSA is monitoring the situation closely, as we do all data relating to SARS-CoV-2 variants in the UK and around the globe through our world-leading genomic surveillance systems.”
BA.2.75 appears to be spreading faster than other variants in India, Lipi Thukral, a scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, told MedicalXpress.
However, Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at University of Leeds, said this may be because it didn’t have competition from other stealthy Omicron variants, namely BA.5.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We know that it’s been growing quite quickly in parts of India, and its been found elsewhere around the planet
“But it’s encouraging to see that it hasn’t been growing in communities outside of India so far, and that’s because India doesn’t really have so much of the BA.5 variant of Omicron, which we are experiencing in the UK at the moment and is sweeping the world.
“We are hoping that means this new variant won’t be able to compete with BA.5.
“But it could be that it’s the next one on the cards for our next wave we experience across the planet.”
Dr Griffin said the severity of new variants is now hard to decipher because there is a huge mix of immunity in the population.
He added, however, that its “unique characteristics” has “caught people’s attention”, including the World Health Organization.
Health chiefs still say that the best way to protect yourself and those around you is by getting vaccinated.
Five million people aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed should have got a booster over spring.
And the NHS has planned for those over the age of 50 to get one this autumn.
It comes as the UK is gripped by Omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5 – the latter of which has been described as the “worst variant so far”.
The strains are behind the current summer wave which are driving cases to the estimated highest they have ever been.
One in 15 people are infected with the bug, a leading study estimated last week.
The ZOE Covid Symptom Study said if you have cold symptoms, it’s twice as likely to be Covid than a cold.
And experts have warned that you can catch a version of Omicron even if you fell sick with it previously.