With California suffering through another intense coronavirus wave, the stunning proliferation of the BA.5 subvariant is becoming a growing focus of scientific scrutiny, with experts saying it may replicate itself far more effectively than earlier versions of Omicron.
Compared to its ancestors, the latest Omicron subvariant, BA.5, may have an enhanced ability to create a large number of copies of the coronavirus once it gets into human cells, a possible contributing factor for why this summer’s Omicron wave has been problematic.
Far and away the dominant version of the coronavirus circulating nationwide — making up an estimated 65% of new cases over the weeklong period that ended Saturday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — BA.5 is arguably combining aspects of last summer’s Delta variant with older versions of the highly contagious Omicron family, said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla.
“You may remember the term ‘Deltacron’ prematurely used many months ago in the pandemic. But the ability to infect cells for BA.5 is more akin to Delta than the previous Omicron family of variants,” Topol wrote in a blog post.
In many ways, this wave of the pandemic has felt different from other Omicron waves earlier this year. Health experts say the behavior of the ultra-contagious strain shows the need for prudent precautions.