Authors: Tegally H, Moir M, Everatt J, Giovanetti M, Scheepers C, Wilkinson E, Subramoney K, Moyo S, Amoako D, Althaus C, Anyaneji U, Kekana D, Viana R, Giandhari J, Maponga T, Maruapula D, Choga W, Mayaphi S, Mbhele N, Gaseitsiwe S, Msomi N, Naidoo Y, Pillay S, Sanko T, San J, Scott L, Singh L, Magini N, Smith-Lawrence P, Stevens W, Dor G, Tshiabuila D, Wolter N, Preiser W, Treurnicht F, Venter M, Davids M, Chiloane G, Mendes A, McIntyre C, O'Toole A, Ruis C, Peacock T, Roemer C, Williamson C, Pybus O, Bhiman J, Glass A, Martin D, Rambaut A, Gaseitsiwe S, von Gottberg A, Baxter C, Lessells R, de Oliveira T
South Africa’s fourth COVID-19 wave was driven predominantly by three lineages (BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3) of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant of concern. We have now identified two new lineages, BA.4 and BA.5. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical, and comparable to BA.2 except for the addition of 69-70del, L452R, F486V and the wild type amino acid at Q493. The 69-70 deletion in spike allows these lineages to be identified by the proxy marker of S-gene target failure with the TaqPath™ COVID-19 qPCR assay. BA.4 and BA.5 have rapidly replaced BA.2, reaching more than 50% of sequenced cases in South Africa from the first week of April 2022 onwards. Using a multinomial logistic regression model, we estimate growth advantages for BA.4 and BA.5 of 0.08 (95% CI: 0.07 - 0.09) and 0.12 (95% CI: 0.09 - 0.15) per day respectively over BA.2 in South Africa.