Professors concern over severity of two most commonly reported Covid strains

Eris: New COVID-19 coronavirus variant detailed

A respiratory expert has voiced concerns over the impact of two strains of Covid currently spreading across the UK.

As reported, the Eris – or EG.5.1 – variant arrived in the UK in May this year, and has gone on to become the second most prevalent cause of Covid.

It is thought around 800,000 Britons could have been infected so far.

The first known case of another strain, BA.2.86 – or Pirola – was confirmed in the UK last week.

On August 18, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed a case of Pirola and said it was undertaking a “detailed assessment” to learn more about it.

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Pirola has undergone 36 mutations distinguishing it from the XBB.1.5 variant, something which could make it particularly dangerous.

Dr Mark Faghy, associate professor of respiratory physiology at the University of Derby, spoke exclusively with about the current situation.

“Eris and Priola are the most commonly reported strains of Covid-19 infection circulating at the moment,” he said.

“There are still things that we don’t know about each of these variants – these include speed of transmission and severity of infection. Investigation into these is ongoing.”

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The academic had concerns about the severity of infection from these strains.

Dr Faghy said: “My main concern – if Priola can evade the immunity and cause subsequent/repeat infections, what will this mean in terms of acute severity?

“We are keen to know if two Covid-19 infections close together are linked to worse outcomes at the point of infection.

“This might also create challenges in relation to recovery and the long-term outcomes (long Covid) for patients, as increased severity at acute infection has been shown to increase the likelihood of prolonged/persistent issues.”


The strains share some symptoms but have some differing signs, he said.

Dr Faghy explained: “Symptoms of Eris typically follow that of Omicron and include headaches, non-productive cough (i.e no phlegm), muscle aches and pains and cold-like symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose.

“Work is continuing to understand its severity and how quickly it spreads, and this is under constant observation from health authorities.

“Priola is another descendant of Omicron and is causing some alarm, with fears that it may be capable of infecting people who have recently had a Covid-19 infection.

“Whilst this has yet to be confirmed, 36 mutations have so far been identified, and work is ongoing to understand whether Priola can evade the immunity developed from a recent/previous infection.

“Symptoms of Priola include loss of taste/smell, fever, a cough, and cold-like symptoms.”

If you experience any symptoms of Covid or test positive the NHS advises staying home and avoiding contact with others for five days if possible to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

You should avoid contact with vulnerable people for at least 10 days.

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