Scientists are tracking a highly mutated variant of the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 to understand the extent it can spread or the manner in which it can react against human immunity.
The variant has been called BA.2.86.
In a statement, Statens Serum Institut said: "A new corona variant, which has been named BA.2.86, was found in Denmark this week, and now Statens Serum Institut (SSI) has detected another case. Isolated cases with the same variant have also been detected in Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom."
The subvariant differs significantly from the other omicron variants that have been seen in the past, and it is designated as ‘variant under monitoring’ by the WHO.
"It is unusual for corona to change so significantly and develop 30 new mutations. The last time we saw such a big change was when omicron appeared," says senior researcher at SSI, Morten Rasmussen.
The three cases in Denmark are from different parts of the country, and do not appear to have had contact with each other.
Is it a matter of concern?
It is still too early to say anything about the severity and contagiousness of the new variant. SSI is in the process of researching and growing the virus variant to test it against antibodies.
"It is clear that we react when we see something completely new, that is the job. But none of the three preliminary cases have had symptoms other than those normally seen in the course of covid-19. We also have a strong expectation that the vaccines - also with this variant - will provide good protection against serious disease," says Tyra Grove Krause, Executive Vice President for Epidemiological Infectious Disease Preparedness, SSI.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that the new variant should not be a cause for alarm.
“I think what we are seeing is our detection mechanisms that we’ve put in place are working, right?” she told CNN.
“We are more prepared than ever to detect and respond to changes in the Covid-19 virus.
“We are tracking this new lineage. It has mutations that do make it distinct from other lineages circulating. And then the question becomes, what does that mean?
“Is it going to increase? Are we going to see more cases? Or is it going to fizzle out and not be a variant of concern?” Cohen told the American news channel.