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Presence of BA.2 COVID-19 subvariant increasing in Regina wastewater: U of R study

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COVID-19 viral levels in Regina’s wastewater remain high, but have decreased slightly according to the latest data from the University of Regina.

Tzu-Chiao Chao, a molecular biologist and researcher at the University of Regina, said viral levels dropped roughly 10 per cent from the week before.

Chao said the change is fairly insignificant due to several day-to-day fluctuations in the viral load, which makes it hard to determine any short-term trends.

“The risk hasn’t fundamentally changed over the last couple of weeks,” Chao said.

“Nothing dramatic is happening at this point. It’s still wait and see to be honest”

The height of the peaks over the last two data periods appear to be lower, but Chao said it will be one to two more weeks before they can determine which way the curve is headed.

He said Regina appears to be in an inconsistent rhythm with one to two weeks of increased viral loads followed by a decrease, or vice versa. Any semblance of a plateau in levels is not steady, he added.

“The long-term trend is still mostly downward, although the decline has been slowing down,” Chao said, when comparing the current levels to their highest peak in January.

“We do see rebounds during the whole period.”

In the most recent analysis, the presence of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant has also increased significantly, but Omicron (BA.1) remains the dominant strain.

According to Chao, the BA.2 variant accounts for about 30 per cent of the viral load. Prior to this sample, BA.2 levels had been hovering just below the 20 per cent mark.

Chao said it is too soon to tell if there will be a sustained increase in BA.2 and how that could affect viral levels moving forward.

Researchers compare the current viral levels to the highest level in April of 2021, coinciding with high infection rates in the city of Regina.

Wastewater analysis has been ongoing since August of 2020.

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