A Houston resident has become the fourth person in the country to test positive for the new BA 286 COVID-19 variant. However, experts say, that while the new variant has gotten a lot of attention, it's unlikely it will have more impact than other current COVID-19 variants.
The variant first emerged two weeks ago and has since been detected in several countries, including Denmark, Israel and the United States.
Dr. Wesley Long, a researcher and physician at Houston Methodist Hospital, said BA.2.86 is what he calls a "remix" of mutations common in other variants, meaning immunity gained through vaccination or previous infection will likely offer some protection.
"It's music that our immune system has heard before but put together in a new way, but it will, to an extent, likely recognize parts of it," said Long. "I would not expect it to cause a wave like the Omicron wave."
So far, there have been under 30 confirmed cases globally. Long said, while it's still early on, he does not predict a wave as serious as others Houston has seen so far.
"There's no reason to suspect at this point that it is any more severe or different in terms of outcomes than the currently circulating variants," he said.
The Houston area is currently experiencing a spike in COVID infections due to the XBB-lineage of the Omicron variant. An updated booster tailored to these particular variants is expected to be released following a meeting of a CDC advisory panel on Sept. 12.
Long recommends staying up-to-date on vaccinations, including getting the newest booster when it is rolled out.