BA.2.38 causing just mild illness: Study

PUNE: Omicron sub-variant BA.2's offspring, BA.2.38, may be causing a spike in Maharashtra and other parts of India, but the illness it is causing is self-limiting and almost comparable with common cold-like illness, indicating SARS-CoV-2's journey towards endemicity, reveals a first-of-its-kind clinical study of 116 patients found infected with BA.2.38 in India.
Doctors attached to Pune-based B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital, a state-run tertiary care referral unit, carried out the study and assessed the symptoms and illness patterns of BA.2.38-infected patients this month.
"The fact that the share of infection caused by BA.2.38 is rising is known. But what it actually means in terms of its disease-causing potential has been assessed for the first time in India. The study found it is only causing mild disease," said a senior scientist from Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (Insacog), the forum set up to study and monitor genome sequencing and virus variation of circulating strains of Covid in the country.
Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, lead investigator of the study, said, "Those infected with it (BA.2.38) predominantly had fever, cough, body ache, sore throat and headache - mainly upper respiratory tract symptoms mimicking common cold-like illness. Some had diarrhoea."
A total of 73% infected patients of BA.2.38 had fever, followed by cough (23%), body ache (17%), sore throat (15%), headache (13%) and cold (11%).
A few patients of BA.2.38 also experienced gastro-intestinal symptoms like diarrhoea (10%), which was also seen among 25% of the Omicron-infected patients during the third wave of the pandemic, along with vomiting (2%) and stomach ache (1%), Dr Karyakarte said.
Infectious disease specialist Dr Bharat Purandare said, "This study underscores the same findings as observed in earlier studies of Omicron-linked disease patterns. BA.2.38 is causing mild illness. Fever and upper respiratory symptoms are predominant. The self-limited nature of illness in most cases is indicative of the endemicity of SARS-CoV-2."
Dr Sanjay Pujari, a member of ICMR's national Covid task force, said, "The interpretation is limited by small sample size and no comparison with other circulating major variants, making it difficult to conclude whether BA2.38 behaves differently as compared to other circulating variants."
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