Stanford Lab Uses Global Database to Look for Any New COVID Variants

On Wednesday, the California Department of Health said the number of cases statewide moved from 11 to 14 overnight

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Bay Area health departments are on alert after two cases of the subvariant of omicron BA.2 were confirmed in the South Bay, and labs are taking a deeper dive into the research.

The two cases in Santa Clara County were detected after virus samples from two patients with COVID were sent to a lab for genetic sequencing.

“The BA.2 sublineage is much rarer but it has begun to pop up in California, including Santa Clara County,” said Dr. George Han, Santa Clara County health officer.

It's news that certainly will put people on edge. But UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi said there are several reasons why you probably should not be overly concerned about BA.2.

“It could be a little bit more transmissible,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF. “If you’ve seen omicron then you’re already protected and the vaccine will still work against BA.2  because it’s essentially the same virus.”

The Santa Clara County cases were detected using genomic sequencing and while Stanford Clinical Virology Lab is not the lab that found them, it’s on alert and looking for more. And that's important because BA.2 is nearly impossible to detect without this deeper dive.

The Stanford lab sequences more than 3,000 virus samples a day and uses a global database to look for any new variants.

“It’s from that global database that we have discovered BA.1 and 2 and the various lineages,” said Obadia Kenji of Stanford.

BA.2 has been detected in at least 40 countries and has been labeled a "variant under investigation."

But Dr. Gandhi said with evidence showing omicron cases in the Bay Area already peaking and now dropping quickly -- don't expect BA.2 to have the same impact as the original omicron.

“It’s not going to give us another wave we have not seen that happen in either Europe or the UK,” said Gandhi.

Some much needed good news about the latest pandemic twist.

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