What is Covid Centaurus? Symptoms of new variant, is it prevalent in the UK - is it more contagious

The new BA.2.75 sub-variant of Omicron is closely related to the BA.5 and BA.2 strains

A new highly contagious sub-variant of Omicron has been detected in the UK as Covid cases continue to rise.

The BA.2.75 variant, nicknamed ‘Centaurus’, is closely related to the BA.5 and BA.2 strains and is thought to spread even more quickly.

Covid Centaurus is a new sub-variant of Omicron (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)

What is Covid Centaurus?

Covid Centaurus is a new sub-variant of Omicron that is thought to be highly contagious.

Known scientifically as BA.2.75, it was first discovered in India but has since been detected in around 10 other countries, including the US, Germany, Canada, Australia and the UK.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) designated BA.2.75 as a “variant under monitoring” on 7 July.

This suggests that it may be more transmissible than previous Covid strains, although data is still being compiled.

Can Centaurus cause more serious disease?

As the new variant has only recently been detected, it remains unclear whether it could cause more serious disease than previous Omicron strains, but scientists say it is possible it may be capable of evading immunity built up from vaccines and previous infection.

Researchers have warned that Centaurus has a large number of mutations compared to its Omicron predecessors, with some of the mutations in areas that relate to the spike protein, which could allow the virus to bind to cells more efficiently.

Covid Centaurus is a new sub-variant of Omicron (Photo: Getty Images)

It is also feared that such genetic mutations may make it easier for the virus to get around antibodies made in response to vaccines or past infection.

However, experts say vaccines and booster jabs are still the best defence against severe Covid and it will take several weeks to get a better understanding of the severity of this new variant.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Centaurus are thought to be very similar to previous Omicron variants, although the sub-variant is still being studied.

The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants are currently still dominant in the UK and people are being urged to be aware of the key symptoms to help prevent further spread.

The range of symptoms being reported is changing as more people are infected, with data from the ZOE Covid Study now showing a sore throat is the most common sign of infection.

By comparison, the more “old fashioned” Covid symptoms have dropped much further down the rankings, including a fever, and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

Professor Tim Spector, the lead scientist behind the research, said: “If you’re not testing, you should assume it’s Covid at the moment because it’s far more prevalent than anything else out there.

“It’s much more likely to be Covid than a summer cold.”

The top 20 most reported Covid symptoms to look for right now, according to data from the ZOE Covid Study app, are:

  • Sore throat 
  • Headache 
  • Blocked nose 
  • Cough no phlegm 
  • Runny nose
  • Cough with phlegm 
  • Hoarse voice 
  • Sneezing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle pains/aches 
  • Dizzy light-headed 
  • Swollen neck glands 
  • Eye soreness 
  • Altered smell 
  • Chest pain tightness
  • Fever
  • Chills or shivers 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Earache 
  • Loss of smell

If you feel unwell or experience any Covid symptoms, it is advised that you stay at home and avoid contact with others where possible.

How many Covid cases are there?

A total of 2.7 million people in the UK were estimated to have had the virus in the week to June 30.

This marks the highest estimate since late April, but is still some way below the record high of 4.9 million at the peak of the BA.2 wave.

There is currently no concrete data on Centaurus as yet, but it is being studied by scientific teams across the world.