WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, nicknamed Pirola, is sweeping the nation and is being monitored by the World Health Organization.
One case has even surfaced in a passenger at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia. In a statement released Wednesday, drug maker Moderna said its updated COVID-19 booster shot should protect against BA.2.86.
The Food and Drug Administration could approve the new COVID vaccine soon. If approved, the Centers for Disease and Prevention Center (CDC) would still have to sign off on it.
Dr. Marc Siegel, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The George Washington University Hospital, said it is encouraging.
“I think that the data that came out of the two U.S. labs in the last day or so suggested that people who were infected with COVID in the last six months, which was when the XBB variant was circulating, showed that those antibodies were effective at neutralizing Pirola,” Siegel said.
That’s what the new updated COVID booster is based on, he said.
“There’s reason for optimism that that booster should be effective in preventing infection with Pirola,” Siegel said.
COVID-19 is something that the world will have to with as new variants continue to develop, according to Siegel.
“Unfortunately, there’s new variants that come out all the time,” he said. “It likes to mutate and so we unfortunately, are going to keep seeing new variants for the foreseeable future.”
Although the Pirola variant does not account for even 1$ of cases in the U.S., concerns have risen due to the more than 30 mutations found in the virus.
The WHO has designated the Pirola strain as a variant under monitoring, meaning it has mutations that might give it an advantage over others, but more information is still needed.
Moderna said it’s updated COVID-19 vaccines are expected to roll out sometime this month.