BA.2.75.2: what is the Covid Omicron subvariant, what are the symptoms and why is it worrying experts?

BA.2.75.2 is a sub-lineage of BA.2.75

The Covid Omicron variant BA.2.75.2 is currently circulating in the UK, but what is the subvariant and is it a cause for concern?

Here’s what you need to know.

BA.2.75.2 is a sub-lineage of BA.2.75

What is BA.2.75.2?

Omicron is a highly transmissible Covid variant that was first detected earlier this year and has been spreading widely ever since.

The most recent omicron variants that most people have heard of include BA.4 and BA.5, but BA.2 and its sub lineages are also in circulation.

The UK government has listed Omicron BA.2 and all sub-lineages as variants of concern.

Omicron BA.2.75, the variant derived from the BA.2 lineage, has also been categorised as a separate variant and given the designation V-22JUL-01 by the UKHSA.

This designation means that data relating to BA.2.75 will now be reported separately from other BA.2 cases and allows investigation into the specific properties of this variant.

The variant is currently under monitoring and investigation in the UK.

According to the UKHSA, as of 6 September 2022, there were 100 cases with BA.2.75 in the UK. Of these, 89 were in England, seven in Scotland and four in Wales.

BA.2.75 is currently increasing in frequency in England, with the growth rate increasing from July 2022 to August 2022, and is currently 61% per week compared to co-circulating lineages.

Two sub-lineages of BA.2.75 - BA.2.75.1 and BA.2.75.2 - are also currently being assessed.

Sub-lineage BA.2.75.2 was first identified in the UK on 20 August 2022 and was made a signal in monitoring on 7 September 2022.

Why is the subvariant worrying experts?

Martin Michaelis, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, said the subvariant is “of concern” because the spreading patterns of BA.2.75.2 resemble those of BA.1, BA.2, and BA.5 in the early phases.

He said there are “indications” that BA.2.75.2 may “transmit faster than other variants” and be better at “bypassing pre-existing immunity provided by vaccinations and previous infections”.

There is therefore concern that the strain may “take over and cause the next big wave”, Prof Michaelis added.

However, he said that although there is already worry about a potential surge in cases, and time spent in poorly ventilated indoor spaces due to colder weather will now increase and “facilitate virus transmission”, it is still too early to be sure about whether BA.2.75.2 will be the next dominant variant.

What are the current symptoms of Covid?

Professor Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE Covid study, recently issued an update on the most common symptoms being logged on the ZOE Covid Study app.

The following 10 symptoms were the most common:

  1. Sore throat
  2. Headache
  3. Cough (no phlegm)
  4. Blocked nose
  5. Runny nose
  6. Cough (with phlegm)
  7. Sneezing
  8. Hoarse voice
  9. Muscle pains and aches
  10. Fatigue

Which vaccines will be used in the UK autumn booster programme?

A number of vaccines will be used in the autumn booster programme, including ‘bivalent’ vaccines.

‘Bivalent’ vaccines have been developed by global manufacturers since the emergence and dominance of the Omicron variant.

These vaccines are targeted against antigens from two different Covid strains, or variants.

Advised for use in adults aged 18 yea­rs and above:

  • Moderna mRNA (Spikevax) bivalent Original ‘wild-type’/Omicron BA.1. Dose: 50 micrograms
  • Moderna mRNA (Spikevax) Original ‘wild-type’ vaccine. Dose: 50 micrograms
  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) bivalent Original ‘wild-type’/Omicron BA.1 vaccine. Dose: 30 micrograms
  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) ‘wild-type’ vaccine. Dose: 30 micrograms

Advised for use in persons aged 12 to 17 years:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) bivalent Original ‘wild-type’/Omicron BA.1 vaccine. Dose: 30 micrograms
  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) ‘wild-type’ vaccine. Dose: 30 micrograms

Advised for use in persons aged 5 to 11 years:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) ‘wild-type’ vaccine paediatric formulation. Dose 10 micrograms. Available for ‘off-label’ use as a booster dose (currently UK approved for primary course vaccination in children aged 5 to 11 years)

Exceptional circumstances:

  • Novavax Matrix-M adjuvanted wild-type vaccine (Nuvaxovid), dose 5 micrograms (Spike protein) with 50 micrograms adjuvant, may be used ‘off-label’ as a booster dose for persons aged 18 years and above when no alternative clinically suitable UK-approved COVID-19 vaccine is availabl