A new COVID-19 variant named BA.2.86, also known as Pirola, has emerged in four countries, and it has several mutations that distinguish it from earlier strains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that Pirola may be better at infecting individuals who have had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, although it’s unclear if it causes more severe illness. The World Health Organization is monitoring Pirola due to its numerous mutations.
As of now, only seven cases of Pirola have been identified worldwide. There is limited information about its symptoms, with reports indicating mild symptoms in at least one patient. The symptoms of Pirola appear to be similar to other COVID-19 variants.
Pirola and Eris (EG.5) both descend from Omicron and share some similarities, but they have different mutations in the spike protein. Eris has spread more widely in the United States compared to Pirola.
While there is valid concern about Pirola’s mutations potentially allowing it to evade immunity, experts suggest that it’s not a major new variant of concern and may not lead to more severe disease. The fall COVID-19 booster is expected to provide some level of protection against Pirola, although the extent of that protection remains uncertain due to Pirola’s distinct mutations. The limited number of Pirola cases makes it challenging to assess its significance.