The Centaurus strain has been causing alarm after having been identified in multiple countries, including Australia.
A derivative of the BA.2 variant with the official designation of BA.2.75, the Centaurus was identified first in India only in May. But there is some suggestion that it's been circulating since January.
Associate Professor Hassan Vally of Deakin University believes the strain is one to watch but says the overwhelming concern around its spread might have more to do with its name than the evidence of its severity.
"There's a lot of panic around this variant just at the moment," Professor Vally said.
"I think part of it has to do with doing the nickname that's been given, the Centaurus, it sounds scary."
So where did the name come from?
The Centaurus strain is the first COVID-19 variant to be named outside of the Greek alphabet. And this may have happened purely by chance.
In an article published on July 14, 2022, The Washington Post described how a "Twitter rando' named a coronavirus variant Centaurus and it's stuck".
Twitter user Xabier Ostale named the variant after the Earth's neighbouring galaxy, Centaurus.
The constellation itself was named after the Greek mythological story of the Centaurus, the father of the horse-man warriors known as the Centaurs.
"It sounds very scary and I don't know if you know, but it seems to be a nickname that someone on Twitter gave this variant," Professor Vally told ACM.
"That's not part of the official Greek alphabet naming nomenclature, and I think it's capturing a lot of attention because of it."
What's different about this variant?
Not a lot is known about the Centaurus strain yet.
The World Health Organisation has declared the BA.2.75 as a variant of interest, which is to say the world's health experts will be watching its spread closely.
But the variant has not yet been declared a concern.
Preliminary analysis suggests this variant has a total of eight additional changes on its spike protein when compared to its Omicron predecessor.
"Anything that changes in that spike protein gets our alarm bells ringing because we know what a vital role spike protein plays, both in the transmissibility of variants, but also all the vaccines are directed towards that spike protein," Professor Vally said.
"When you see those changes in the spike protein, you do worry that it has the potential to evade immunity from vaccines."
If the strain does prove to be vaccine evasive, then there is also a high chance that it will be elude immunity from previous infections too.
So, having recently tested positive to a prior variant, including the Omicron strain, will not provide you with a lasting immune defence against the Centaurus.
Some laboratory tests have indicated that this variant may have the potential to become dominant and will likely evade previous immunity.
But, as Professor Vally explained, the real world behaves very differently and without laboratory conditions.
"We've certainly got to wait to, kind of, see how this virus travels through the real world," Professor Vally said.
"The concern that we all have [...] is the fact that we don't want any more game-changing variants like Delta and you know, we've just got to somehow find that balance of being alert to that possibility and make sure we're doing everything to understand this variant."