The rapid emergence and worldwide detection of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant underscore the importance of robust genomic surveillance systems and prompt information sharing among global public health partners. The Omicron variant has rapidly replaced the Delta variant as a dominating SARS-CoV-2 variant because of natural selection, favoring the variant with higher infectivity and stronger vaccine breakthrough capability. The Omicron variant is also known as B.1.1.529. It has four sub-variants, indicated as BA.1, BA.2, BA.3 and BA.4. Among them, BA.1 is the currently prevailing sub-variant, and BA.2 has been found to be able to alarmingly re-infect patients initially infected by Omicron BA.1. The BA.3 sub-variant is a combination of mutations of BA.1 and BA.2, especially in the spike protein. Today, the BA.4 variant is emerging, which is herein described, and it was the first detected in Italy. Via bioinformatic analysis, we are reporting that the BA.4 that was identified harbors a new mutation, specifically a deletion in the ORF1ab gene, corresponding to KSF141_del in non-structural protein 1 (nsp1), a critical virulence factor able to suppress host translation. The bioinformatics comparison analysis with the other three sub-variants reveals that the deletion was not present before and was never reported until now. Therefore, we can speculate that Omicron BA.4 will become a new dominating "variant of concern" and may also break vaccine protection. Moreover, we show that other proteins are mutated in the BA.4. In particular, seven mutations are recognized in the nucleocapsid (N) protein, and the capability of five different types of rapid antigenic tests are used to identify it.
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