Aug. 18, 2023 – The CDC is tracking a newly discovered strain of COVID-19 called BA.2.86.
On Thursday, the agency posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the lineage has been detected in the United States, Denmark, and Israel.
“As we learn more about BA.2.86, CDC’s advice on protecting yourself from COVID-19 remains the same," the CDC said on X.
A case of BA.2.86 was detected at a laboratory at the University of Michigan, CBS News reported. It's not clear how the university obtained the sample that was sequenced. A case was also detected in the United Kingdom, the news outlet said.
The World Health Organization is also tracking BA.2.86 and has classified it as a "variant under monitoring."
“More data are needed to understand this #COVID19 variant and the extent of its spread, but the number of mutations warrants attention. WHO will update countries and the public as we learn more,” the WHO said on X.
The strain is so new that scientists don’t know if BA.2.86 is more easily spread, causes more severe symptoms than existing strains, or will be more resistant to vaccines and natural immunity developed over the last few years.
Early research indicates BA.2.86 "will have equal or greater escape than XBB.1.5 from antibodies elicited by pre-Omicron and first-generation Omicron variants," Jesse Bloom, PhD, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, said in a slide deck published Thursday. (XBB.1.5 is the Omicron subvariant that is targeted in the updated COVID booster shot to be released soon.)
Still, Bloom noted that “even if a highly mutated new variant like BA.2.86 starts to spread, we will be in a far better place than we were in 2020 and 2021, since most people have some immunity to SARS-CoV-2 now.”