Omicron BQ variant predominates, low circulating XBB
A person is tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 22, 2021.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Sub-variants of the omicron BQ coronavirus have become dominant in the United States as people gather and travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, putting people with compromised immune systems at increased risk of contracting the disease. disease is higher.
BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are causing 57% of new infections in the US, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. The sub-variant BA.5 of omicron, once dominant, now accounts for only a fifth of new Covid infections.
According to the National Institutes of Health, BQ sub-variants are more resistant to immune avoidance and are more resistant to major antibody drugs, such as evusheld and bebtelovimab, used by people with systemic compromised immunity. This includes transplant and cancer chemotherapy patients.
There is currently no substitute for these drugs. President Joe Biden, in a speech in October, told people with compromised immune systems that they should consult a doctor and take additional precautions during this winter.
“new variation may render some existing protective measures ineffective against immunocompromised individuals. Sadly, this means you may be at particular risk this winter,” Biden said.
The XBB sub-variant is also currently circulating at low levels, causing about 3% of new infections. White House medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, in a briefing on Tuesday, said XBB is even more immunogenic than BQ sub-variants.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the new boosters, designed to fight omicron BA.5, may not be effective for infections and mild illness caused by XBB. But the shots should protect against serious illness, he said. Singapore has seen a spike in infections caused by XBB, he added, but not a huge increase in hospital admissions.
Moderna and Pfizer said last week that their booster induces an immune response against BQ.1.1, which is a descendant of the BA.5 sub-variant.
Fauci, during the press conference, said public health officials believe there is sufficient immunity through vaccination, booster and infection to prevent a repeat of the unprecedented Covid outbreak that occurred last year. last winter when omicron first arrived.