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UW Study: Latest COVID-19 strain may not be more pathogenic

COVID-19
COVID-19(MGN)
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 5:04 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The newly dominant version of the most dominant variant of the COVID-19 virus is not any more virulent nor does it cause more severe illnesses than the strain it replaces, new research led by a University of Madison virologist determined.

The team’s peer-reviewed findings contradict a previous study that stated the new Omicron subvariant BA.2 was more pathogenic than the BA.1 strain that sent new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin to unprecedented levels. The researchers led by UW’s Yoshihiro Kawaoka pointed out that the earlier study used a virus with spike proteins from both BA.1 and BA.2 viruses, with Kawaoka adding, “when we used authentic virus, we found that BA.2 is not more pathogenic.”

Kawaoka and the paper’s co-author Veterinary Medicine research associate professor Peter Halfman surmised parts of the virus other than the spike proteins may cause BA.2 to be less pathogenic. Additionally, their study found that both prominent Omicron variants led to less severe illnesses than the original strain or the Delta variant.

BA.2 now dominates cases in approximately 80 countries. However, just as previous variants have all been replaced by newer ones, another strain is making inroads in New York: BA.2.12.1.

Kawaoka and his team have already begun testing on that one.

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