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How omicron BA.5 became a master of disguise

The omicron subvariant known as BA.5 was first detected in South Africa in February 2022 and spread rapidly throughout the world. As of the second week of July 2022, BA.5 constituted nearly 80% of Covid-19 variants in the United States.

Soon after researchers in South Africa reported the original version of the omicron variant (B.1.1.529) on Nov. 24, 2021, many scientists – including me – speculated that if omicron’s numerous mutations made it either more transmissible or better at immune evasion than the preceding delta variant, omicron could become the dominant variant around the world.

The omicron variant did indeed become dominant early in 2022, and several sublineages, or subvariants, of omicron have since emerged: BA.1, BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5, among others. With the continued appearance of such highly transmissible variants, it is evident that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is effectively using classic techniques that viruses use to escape the immune system.



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