A descendant of the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant appears to be on the rise, according to the World Health Organization. 

BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3 are all known subvariants of Omicron. Government officials in the U.K. confirmed that BA.2 is currently under investigation. The most confirmed cases have been detected in London, at 146 so far. Globally, over 10,000 cases of the subvariant have been detected. 

“The Omicron variant sub-lineage known as BA.2 has been designated a variant under investigation,” the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said in a statement. “There is still uncertainty around the significance of the changes to the viral genome, and further analyses will now be undertaken.”

COVID-19 Incident Director at the UKHSA Dr. Meera Chad clarified that mutations are to be expected going forward, as “it is the nature of viruses to evolve and mutate. So far, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether BA.2 causes more severe illness than Omicron BA.1, but data is limited and UKHSA continues to investigate.”

The UKHSA added that early research indicates that BA.2 may be more contagious than BA.1, but that "further analysis is needed."

Yale School of Medicine immunologist Dr. Akiko Iwasaki recently conducted a study to uncover potential long-term effects of COVID. The study found that even those who experienced milder symptoms from the virus can potentially endure long-term neurological damage.