COVID Cases Rise across the Country with New Highly Mutated “Pirola” Variant Identified

September 7, 2023

In the week of August 20 to August 26, 2023, COVID-19 hospitalizations across the U.S. have increased by 15.7% compared to the prior week , with a 17.6% increase in COVID-19 deaths across the same time, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising, there is concern about a new COVID-19 variant, BA.2.86, unofficially called "Pirola", as reported by the Independent. The new variant is understood to have more than 30 mutations to its spike protein, which helps it enter and infect human cells.

Infectious disease specialist Scott Roberts, MD, of Yale Medicine was quoted by the Independent saying, "Such a high number of mutations is notable . . . When we went from XBB.1.5 [the Omicron variant] to EG.5 [the Eris variant], that was maybe one or two mutations . . . But these massive shifts, which we also saw from Delta to Omicron, are worrisome."

Moderna has reported that its forthcoming updated boosters are expected to work well against the Pirola variant.

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