BQ 1.1.: The mutation that “will trigger a wave before the end of November”

The coronavirus mutates. Constant. It is constantly developing new properties to evade the antibodies we have built up from previous infections and vaccinations. This is called an “immune flight”. The stronger this immune escape, the greater the risk that the protection provided by the vaccination will no longer be sufficient to prevent serious courses.

BQ.1.1 spreads

A variant that escapes our immune system particularly well now seems to be spreading worldwide. Experts have been warning about BQ.1.1, a sub-line of BA.5, for several weeks now. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is also concerned. and on Twitter a scientist from Cambridge now even explains that this is probably the variant that will bring us the next wave. We took a closer look at BQ.1.1.

spread

BQ.1.1 has been released in Europe and North America so far. “Their relative share has more than doubled every week,” Cambridge researcher Cornelius Römer wrote on Twitter. It becomes “pretty clear that BQ.1.1 will spark a wave of variants in Europe and North America before the end of November”.

Compared to the currently predominant BA.5 variant, the subline probably has a transmission advantage of more than ten percent, Römer explains further. In addition, BQ.1.1 is “significantly faster” than the omicron variant BA.2.75.2, which has recently appeared in at least 35 countries and 20 US states.

The number of cases in Germany has already increased as much as in the previous year, although the new variants have not yet had a major effect. So the coming months could be “a bumpy ride”.

Immune System Infectivity and Escape

BQ.1.1 shows “a similar immune escape and mutations in similar positions” as BA.2.75.2, explains Richard Neher, head of the research group Evolution of Viruses and Bacteria, Biozentrum, University of Basel. Recently published preprint studies from China and Sweden have shown that this variant is much less recognized by human antibodies.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach also warned in an interview with the “FAZ”: “If, for example, the BQ.1.1 variant prevails, those infected in the summer would likely be easily re-infected.”

Biochemist Römer also adds “bad news”: that BQ.1.1 escapes all available monoclonal antibody cocktails – even the ones that still work against BA.5.

effect of the vaccines

Definitive statements about the effectiveness of the vaccinations in relation to BQ.1.1 cannot yet be made. However, since BQ.1.1 is a BA.5 descendant, experts consider the vaccine adapted to it the most sensible. “So the BA.5 booster protects the best,” writes biochemist Römer. After all, the vaccine adapted to BA.1 is better than that against the wild-type, which in turn is better than none at all. In other words: Vaccination makes sense in any case, but according to Römer, the newer vaccines offer the best protection. “Looks like now is a good time to get a booster.”

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