A SMALL number of cases of the Covid variant Centaurus, which rapidly spread throughout India earlier this year, have been confirmed in Scotland.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) genomic sequencing has found 24 cases of the BA.2.75 in the UK, with three of those in Scotland.

The variant has been described as a “wildcard” by virologists who suspect it could replace the currently dominant BA.5 Omicron strain.

BA.2.75, nicknamed Centaurus, was first discovered in India in May and has since been classed as a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation.

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As of July 18, the UKHSA has deemed it to be a “variant under investigation” – meaning it is not yet a “variant of concern”.

The variant has nine new mutations, eight of which could make it harder for Covid antibodies to do their job against infection. However this would not affect the immunity provided by T cells, so there is no evidence that the variant is any more harmful than existing kinds of Covid.

Dr Tom Peacock of Imperial College London said: “It’s hard to predict the effect of that many mutations appearing together – it gives the virus a bit of a ‘wildcard’ property where the sum of the parts could be worse than the parts individually.

“It is definitely a potential candidate for what comes after BA.5."

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However, Cambridge researcher Ben Krishna said there is not yet “clear evidence” that BA.2.75 is spreading faster and its quick take-over in India could be down to the fact it was centred in regions with no BA.5 to compete against.

He added: "But, if BA.2.75 does have some immune evasion properties, it could cause another wave through the UK and elsewhere. Still, this would likely spike and then fizzle out like alpha, delta and omicron BA.1."