It has 30 mutations and is even more contagious: what doctors say about the new coronavirus “pyrola” and whether you should be afraid of it

The incidence of Covid in most regions of Russia increased further last week.

Photo: Svetlana MAKOVEEVA

The incidence of Covid in most regions of Russia increased further last week. More and more Russians are becoming infected with the coronavirus, falling ill and ending up in hospitals. Even though the vast majority of us have already faced the coronavirus, either through illness or vaccination.

According to Rospotrebnadzor, the new BA.2.86 coronavirus variant called “pirola”, which is now causing a new wave, has developed a number of additional mutations compared to the previously identified “omicron” variants. At this time, it is the most contagious of all previous variants of the virus. However, early results from laboratory studies from China and Sweden suggest that pyrola is likely to remain within the omicron lineage and not split into a new, separate evolutionary branch of the coronavirus. This is indirectly supported by the fact that vaccines created for Omicron also work for Pyrola, as Rospotrebnadzor claims. Nikolai Kryuchkov, immunologist, candidate of medical sciences and general director of a contract research company, told Komsomolskaya Pravda what to expect from Pyrola in the near future and how to protect yourself from it.

The peculiarity of the “pirola” is that it has moved far away from its “ancestor”; More than 30 mutations have developed in it, including within the S protein.

– That’s a lot. Before “Pyrola”, the changes amounted to one or two to four options, in any case up to 10 when “Kraken” and “Cerberus” appeared. And here there are more than 30 substitutes at a time,” says Nikolai Kryuchkov. “And the more mutations occur, the less recognizable the virus variant becomes to the immune system. This means that it is easier for infections to infect us and spread.

In this situation, the antibody titer in those who have recovered or been vaccinated must be very high to not let the “cake” enter the body. That is, immunity after a disease or vaccination must be “new.” Antibodies after vaccination are different and aim to protect against a wide range of antigenic sites of the virus, although in the case of Pyrol, a smaller part of this spectrum continues to act against the virus.

“Apparently, the “pie” will manage to evade the previously formed specific immunity,” says Nikolai Kryuchkov. – But according to the data on pathogenicity (the ability to cause serious illness) and mortality (the number of deaths from the number of cases), fortunately there is still no reason to separate the “pirola” into a separate line. However, the changes in the virus are really serious and atypical for the omicron line. “Pirola” is one of those options “about” to be recognized as the ancestor of a new line.

Our expert believes that there will be an outbreak of morbidity caused by Pirola. Furthermore, if “pyrol” manages to take a dominant position among other “omicron” subvariants, then the outbreak could be large-scale.

The increase in the incidence of Covid is also due to the seasonality factor and the decrease in herd immunity against the coronavirus.

– It is difficult to say whether the outbreak will be of the same magnitude as previous “Omicron” outbreaks or not. For now I see that it should be less,” says Nikolai Kryuchkov. – But “less” does not mean “painless”, it means “less than in previous peaks”, but it is still serious. In addition, the “pirola” is further proof of the rapid evolution of the coronavirus and possible new surprises. The coronavirus is now like a fire that has become dormant with flashes, but the growth of the fire is still possible.

Among the effective options to protect against coronavirus infection, the expert mentions vaccination, although not adapted to the new variants of the virus, first generation antigen vaccines, such as Sputnik, for example. Continued work on new vaccine options and an expanded vaccination campaign will also help in the long term.


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