According to UPI, the most common coronavirus in the US is no longer BA.5 but two newly found omicron subvariants. BA.5 has been responsible for most newly detected Covid infections since its release in July.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on Friday that show the introduction of new subvariants, BQ.1.1 and BQ.1. They account for over 44% of all new Covid infections, compared to BA.5’s 30%.
Dr. Dan Barouch, head of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, stated, “BA.5 is fundamentally dropping swiftly and may soon be gone.”
The number of BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 cases in the UK and across Europe has increased. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, these two subvariants will account for more than half of all new infections in the EU by the end of this month or the beginning of next.
Both groups are considered offshoots of the BA.5 viral family, including the prototype BA.5 virus. However, preliminary evidence shows they are better equipped than prior generations of omicron to avoid protection from Covid vaccinations, notably the new bivalent boosters or a previous Covid infection. This might lead to an increase in the transmission of these subvariants this winter.
Dr. Shan-Lu Liu, co-director of the Viruses and Emerging Pathogens Program at Ohio State University, revealed evidence that BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 had a mutation that boosts their ability to invade human cells. Liu’s work was not peer-reviewed, but it will be published soon in Cell Host & Microbe. The weekly increase in the percentage of BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 infections in the United States has nearly quadrupled since early October, raising concerns.
Because BQ.1.1 has one additional mutation than BQ.1, Barouch believes it may be more resistant to antibodies. As a result, he expects BQ.1.1 will spread like wildfire this winter, leading to “a significant number of illnesses.”
According to Barouch, BQ.1.1 is the most antibody-evasive variation thus far. This month, he has been vocal about his preliminary findings, which reveal that the original and modified Covid vaccinations are less effective against BQ.1.1.
According to these unreviewed results, antibodies against BQ.1.1 were seven times lower than antibodies against BA.5 in those who had either the original Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or a booster dose.
Nonetheless, according to Johns Hopkins University virologist Andrew Pekosz, vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics should be advantageous in the aggregate. This is because these BQ variants share 100% of their DNA with BA.5.
According to Pekosz, “almost all of the variants circulating in the United States are related with BA.5, and so if you take the bivalent vaccine, you will improve your immunity to it to some extent.”
Researchers believe these unique subvariants will not result in more severe illness symptoms. “It is comforting that we are not seeing very big increases in hospitalization,” says Dr. Pekosz, implying that our immunity is still protecting us from catastrophic sickness.