Wwith another Looming Possible Increase of COVID-19experts are turning their attention to a pair of new variants that are steadily spreading: BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.
Both BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are descended from BA.5, the Omicron variant that currently accounts for about 68% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, but relatives of BA.5 are gaining rapid progression. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 each accounted for 5.7% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States during the week ending October 15, According to the data From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Taken together, they account for about 11% of new cases nationwide. In New York and New Jersey, the overall percentage was closer to 20%. A few weeks ago, these variants barely appeared on the CDC tracker, indicating that they are able to spread rapidly.
Of the two, BQ.1.1 is more concerning, says Dr. Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and a close observer of COVID-19 research. Both have a number of mutations related to BA.5, but BQ.1.1 is “full of disturbing mutations” that can “pose a threat to our immune system response,” Topol says.
If there is any good news about BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, it is about vaccination. the new Omicron boosters Designed to target BA.4, BA.5, and Initial research is suggested They provoke an effective immune response. Since both BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are related to BA.5, the new footage will “almost certainly” provide some mutual protection, White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci He told CBS News. This is another reason to get the boost, which is Less than 10% of eligible Americans have done so so far.
It’s too early to say exactly how divalent boosters will work against newer strains like these, but Topol encourages anyone who qualifies to get one. “This is the best thing you can do right now to arm yourself against any of these new variants,” Topol says. “Just keep your immune system as primed and ready as possible.”
More research is needed on BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, but a study Published online in October (which has not yet been peer-reviewed) warned that “current herd immunity and BA.5 vaccine boosters may not provide sufficiently broad protection against infection” as the virus continues to evolve. The researchers found that BQ.1.1 is able to evade antibodies from previous BA.5 infections, suggesting that it may also be able to evade protection from vaccines. The study also found that monoclonal antibody drugs – including Evusheld, which is used to protect people who are immunocompromised and do not respond well to COVID-19 vaccines – are less effective against BQ.1.1, compared to previous strains of the virus. The US Food and Drug Administration, too Recently warned health care providers That Evusheld may not neutralize all SARS-CoV-2 variants.
While vaccines and boosters are currently the best tools we have for fighting COVID-19, the emergence of BQ variants is further evidence that they are not enough to fully protect people from disease. If an elusive variant such as BQ.1 or BQ.1.1 becomes widespread this winter, and some lines of defense become less effective, other precautions such as concealment and avoidance of crowded interior areas may be necessary to guard against infection.
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