The Omicron lineage of SARS-CoV-2, which was first described in November 2021, spread rapidly to become globally dominant and has split into a number of sublineages. BA.1 dominated the initial wave but has been replaced by BA.2 in many countries. Recent sequencing from South Africa's Gauteng region uncovered two new sublineages, BA.4 and BA.5, which are taking over locally, driving a new wave. BA.4 and BA.5 contain identical spike sequences, and although closely related to BA.2, they contain further mutations in the receptor-binding domain of their spikes. Here, we study the neutralization of BA.4/5 using a range of vaccine and naturally immune serum and panels of monoclonal antibodies. BA.4/5 shows reduced neutralization by the serum from individuals vaccinated with triple doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine compared with BA.1 and BA.2. Furthermore, using the serum from BA.1 vaccine breakthrough infections, there are, likewise, significant reductions in the neutralization of BA.4/5, raising the possibility of repeat Omicron infections.
Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
OPTIC Consortium, ISARIC4C Consortium