Covid-19: Highly Mutated Pirola Variant Now Identified In 10 States

A newly identified COVID-19 strain with around 30 mutations has now been identified in 10 states.

COVID-19 Photo Credit: Unsplash/Viktor Forgacs

Cases of the BA.2.86 strain, known as Pirola, have been confirmed in: 

  • Colorado,
  • Maryland,
  • Michigan,
  • New York, 
  • Ohio,
  • Oregon,
  • Pennsylvania,
  • Texas,
  • Virginia,
  • Washington.

The Michigan case, the first in the US, was an older woman who had recently returned from Japan who reportedly had mild symptoms.

At a World Health Organization (WHO) news briefing late last month, authorities said they consider BA.2.86 to be part of the Omicron variant family, but that could change if the strain spreads more widely even though Pirola's 30 mutations are from the BA.2 lineage, which was the dominant Omicron strain in 2022.

In a Risk Assessment Statement issued on Wednesday, Aug. 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said: "The large number of mutations in this variant raises concerns of greater escape from existing immunity from vaccines and previous infections compared with other recent variants. 

"For example, one analysis of mutations suggests the difference may be as large as or greater than that between BA.2 (Omicron) and XBB.1.5 (known as Arcturus), which circulated nearly a year apart."

The Pirola strain was first detected in Israel, and cases have also been identified in several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and Portugal, in addition to the US.

Currently, a new Omicron subvariant known as Eris, whose official name is EG.5, is accounting for most COVID cases nationwide, at 24.5 percent, according to estimates by the CDC.

Eris is also an offshoot of the highly-contagious Omicron strain.

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