nLittle lab data suggests that previous vaccines and infections may not provide adequate protection against many of the new variants of COVID-19 emerging in the United States and around the world.
Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond Center for AIDS Research at Columbia University, and his team report the results of a set of studies published in the journal. temper nature. They demonstrated how well some recent variants – BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB and XBB.1, all derived from Omicron – evade both vaccine-derived and infection-derived immunity.
All of these new variants have mutations in the region that bind to and infect cells, meaning that they are highly transmissible, as were previous Omicron variants. BQ.1 is growing steadily in France, according to the public database of SARS-CoV-2 variants GISAID. By mid-November, European health officials expect an alternative to It accounts for 50% of cases in Europeand to become the dominant strain in that region by early 2023. XBB is growing rapidly in Singapore and India. Both variants generated new strains each of which captured an additional mutation to create BQ.1.1 and XBB.1. As of early November, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 combined about 35% of new cases in the United States
else studies Similar decreases in antibody protection against BQ.1 were found among vaccinated subjects. But Ho’s group has done what is likely to be the most comprehensive look to date at BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB and XBB.1, and how current immunity — from original mRNA vaccines, new Omicron boosters, and natural infections — stands up to them. The scientists took serum from 88 people in five groups (below) and subjected them to four variants in the laboratory. This is what they found:
- People who have been fully vaccinated and boosted once (Three shots total from the original mRNA vaccines) were 37- and 55-fold lower against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, than they were against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, and about 70-fold lower neutralization. Against XBB and XBB.1.
- People who have been fully vaccinated and boosted twice (four total shots of the original mRNA vaccines) were 43- and 81-fold lower against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, compared to the original virus, and 145 and 155-fold lower against XBB and XBB.1, respectively.
- People who have been fully vaccinated and boosted twice (Three shots of the original vaccine plus one omicron booster) were 24- and 41-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, compared to the original virus, and 66- and 85-fold lower neutralization against XBB and XBB.1, respectively.
- Fully vaccinated people who received the original booster drug and had BA 2 It was equivalent to 20 and 29-fold lower against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, compared to the original virus, and 103 and 135-fold lower against XBB and XBB.1, respectively.
- Fully vaccinated people who received the original booster drug and had BA.4 or BA.5 It was 13- and 31-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, compared to the original virus, and 86 and 96-fold lower against XBB and XBB.1, respectively.
The results showed that subjects infected with BA.2, BA.4, or BA.5 generally experienced the lowest decrease in neutralizing antibody levels versus BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. But subjects who received three doses of the original vaccine and an Omicron booster produced only better antibody protection against XBB and XBB.1 than those who received three doses of the original vaccine. Public health experts say that although vaccines may wane in effectiveness against new variants, they continue to protect people from severe COVID-19. There is early evidence that vaccine-induced immunity may also produce a wide range of virus-fighting antibodies over time.
Read more: BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BF.7, and XBB: Why new COVID-19 variants have such confusing names
However, these findings are a reminder that vaccines and drug treatments need to evolve with the virus. “These new variants are very good at evading our antibodies and very likely to jeopardize the efficacy of our vaccines,” Hu says. He says they may also avoid available antibody-based therapies for COVID-19. The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines from the National Institutes of Health It currently includes only one monoclonal antibody treatment, bebtelovimab, because the virus has evaded all previously authorized antibody treatments. But in an October update, NIH scientists acknowledged that “BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 sub variants are likely to be bebtelovimab-resistant.” Therefore this drug is only recommended if people either cannot take antiviral drugs Baxlovid or remdesivir, or if these medicines are not available. The virus can evade these treatments, too, but they remain the first line of defense against severe SARS-CoV-2.
The good news is that in places where these variants are common, they do not appear to be associated with more severe COVID-19 disease — measured by hospitalization and mortality — than other Omicron iterations. However, public health experts say the rising number of infections could strain health resources, especially as other respiratory infections, including flu And the RSVand gaining momentum as well. The combination of several prevalent infectious diseases may mean more illness overall, and therefore more people who may be very ill and need intensive medical care.
The rise of BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB, and XBB.1 points to the fact that when it comes to immunity, the virus may always be one step ahead, especially with regard to vaccines. “I’m going to start making these vaccines, and start testing them on animals,” Hu says. Even if these efforts begin now, they will likely still be left behind by the virus and the new mutations it continues to acquire. That’s why researchers are working to develop vaccines that could be universally applicable to a range of different coronaviruses, and which could shorten the time it takes to build up the immunity of the vaccinated population.
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