Pirola could become the next dominant Covid variant – common signs to spot

Dr Hilary discusses possible Covid wave

Covid variant BA.2.86, dubbed Pirola, could become the new dominant variant, according to a professor.

This warning comes as the ZOE health study, which estimates figures for UK Covid infections, shows there were 93,083 new daily cases of symptomatic infection on September 3.

The data, which is based on millions of users of the ZOE app, estimates there are around 1,185,587 people in the UK with the virus right now.

While there is little evidence to suggest that the Omicron spin-off is more concerning than the dozens of strains that came before, Pirola has large number of mutations. 

Professor Paul Hunter, a respected infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia told MailOnline: “Bottom line is it is likely to become dominant.”

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However, the expert added it is “not possible to say how much it will push up total infections and especially the incidence of severe disease”.

“As we head towards Christmas, I would expect infections to increase whether or not we had this new variant so disentangling everything may still prove somewhat difficult,” Hunter said.

Pirola is not currently considered a “variant of concern” by health authorities but the strain concerns some virologists because it has a large number of mutations.

Scientists have established the subvariant carries 30 more mutations in the spike protein than the previous dominant variant. 

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These mutations could mean BA.2.86 is “potentially more transmissible and severe”, Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire previously told Express.co.uk

He therefore urged vigilance but added that it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions on Pirola as the subvariant remains monitored.

Hunter also shared that many of these genetic quirks are similar to other Omicron descendants, meaning many Britons should still have good protection from being severely ill from an infection. 

As the number of cases linked to the Covid strain that we know of is low, it is unclear whether the new variant comes with distinctive and unique symptoms.

However, Dr Papadopoulos recommended to look out for the following “common” signs: 

  • Sore throat
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Cough (with or without phlegm)
  • Headaches.

So far, four known Pirola cases have been confirmed in the UK by health officials. 

However, it seems that three of the cases had not left the country, suggesting a degree of community transmission in the UK.

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