A THAI citizen has been found to be infected one of two descendants of Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant, called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, that are adept at dodging the protective antibodies from prior infection or vaccination and spread faster, TV Channel 7 said this morning (Oct. 18).
This new case emerged after two Thais returning from Hong Kong and Singapore were found to be infected with the new XBB variant.
The Centre for Medical Genomics of Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, said GSAID, the global data science initiative, has discovered the BQ.1 case in Thailand.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News on Friday that the two descendants of Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, both have dangerous “qualities or characteristics that could evade some of the interventions we have,” CNBC reported.
The two sublineages are responsible for more than 10% of all current US cases, according to the latest Centres for Disease Control and Prevention data — just one week after they weren’t even significant enough to list.
Fauci said the strains have a concerning “doubling time,” referring to how quickly they spread. The UK Health Security Agency reported earlier this month that the strains even demonstrate a growth advantage over BA.5, which was considered the most contagious Covid strain to date.
BQ.1.1 is also particularly adept at dodging the protective antibodies obtained from prior infection or vaccination, Fauci noted.
Scientists from Peking University in China published a study earlier this month that found BQ.1.1′s ability to evade antibodies was “far exceeding” that of BA.5. The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, also found that BQ.1.1 was capable of evading immunity from a previous BA.5 infection and some antibody drugs, including Bebtelovimab and Evusheld.
Still, the fact that both strains come from BA.5 means the new Omicron-specific booster shots likely provide some protection against them. Early clinical trial data suggests that the boosters work well: Pfizer’s new shot generated a strong immune response against both Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, the company reported last week.
“The somewhat encouraging news is that it’s a BA.5 sublineage, so there are almost certainly going to be some cross-protection that you can boost up,” Fauci said.
Although emerging Omicron subspecies such as BQ.1 have the ability to evade immunity gained through getting infected with coronavirus 2019, it has been found that those who got infected with the BA.5 variant after being jabbed have a slightly better resistance against BQ.1 compared to those who got infected with either BA.2 or BA.1 variants after being jabbed as well as those jabbed and never got infected, the Ramathibodi Hospital centre said.
Second-generation “antibody cocktails” such as “SA55+SA58” are capable of capturing and destroying all Omicron strains, including the original BA.1/BA.2 and BA.4/BA.5, and so on but now BQ.1, BQ.1.1 and XBB have emerged.
While Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have immune evasion mutations and spread rapidly, there is no clinical data showing that these two subvariants cause severe infection and death with this differing significantly from the original Omicron strain.
Top: The CDC estimates BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 account for at least 10 percent of new infections in the United States. Image: New Atlas
Insert: Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee hearing in Nov. 2021. Photo: Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc./ Getty Images and published by CNBC
Front Page: A graphic image of Covid.19. Credit: Everydayhealth.com
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