The BQ family of variants continues to grow in the U.S. Together, they just took second place
Recently, the family of COVID variants marked as “quite problematic” leading American expert on infectious diseases dr. Anthony Fauci continues his upward climb in the US
Estimated cases of Omicron variants BQ.1 and descendants of BQ.1.1—dubbed Typhon and Cerberus by some experts in the Twitterverse—has risen from about 12% nationally last week to nearly 17% this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. Combined, they overtook fellow Omicron BA.4.6 as the #2 projected variant in the US
The once globally dominant BA.5, the parental variant of both, continues to lead, but with a decreasing proportion of estimated cases. It is estimated at 62% of cases, down from 70% the previous week.
The nature of the beast
Along with XBB, a combination of two Omicron strains On the rise in Singapore, BQ.1.1 is considered to be the most shunned new variant to date – and one that clearly has the ability to push BA.5 aside, and continues to dominate in the US, although its levels are steadily declining.
“When you get those variants, you look at what their rate of increase is as a relative proportion of the variants, and this has a pretty problematic doubling time,” Fauci, speaking of the BQ variants, he told CBS News on Friday.
The extreme immune evasion and transmissibility of BQ.1.1 “positions it as a prime mover of the next American wave in the coming weeks,” said Eric Topol, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and founder and director of the Scripps Translational Research Institute. tweeted last week.
Last week, he said Fortune that scientists won’t know to what extent it causes vaccines, if at all, until it reaches somewhere between 30% and 50% of cases.
“It will not destroy the effectiveness of the vaccine, but it could reduce the protection against hospitalization and death,” he said.
BQ.1.1 is already known avoid immunity to antibodies, rendering monoclonal antibody treatments used in high-risk individuals with COVID useless. According to a study last month by Peking University’s Biomedical Pioneering Innovation Center, BQ.1.1 escape immunity from bebtelovimab, the latest monoclonal antibody drug that is effective against all variants, as well as Evusheld, which works for some. Along with the BA.1 and XBB variants, BQ.1.1 could lead to more severe symptoms, the authors wrote.
The good news, if there is any, about the BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 is that the new Omicron boosters will “almost certainly” provide “some” protection against them as they are designed to fight the close relative BA.5, Maw he told CBS last week.
Until last week, the CDC listed the BQ variants under BA.5, the parent lineage of both. They seemed to go from 0% to almost 20% of regional cases overnight. But CDC data, updated retroactively, shows the duo slowly increasing since mid-September. The week before last, it accounted for 5.7% of the projected cases, and the previous week, slightly less than 3%.
BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 were first detected in mid-July, according to an Oct. 5 risk assessment by the Ontario Department of Public Health. He rates the level of risk of increased transmissibility, reinfection and reduced effectiveness of vaccination against infection as high, with a high degree of uncertainty.
Many experts, including those at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, as well as Fauci, predict the coming wave of infections which will swell this month and peak in late December or early January.
As of Wednesday, the weekly number of U.S. COVID cases stood at nearly 261,000, an average of 37,285 per day. That’s up from an average of 37,000 cases a day since last week. This week the CDC stopped reporting seven-day averages of newly reported cases and only reports weekly totals.
With testing at an all-time low, it is widely accepted that the numbers of cases reported to the agency, and thus reported, pale in comparison to the actual number of cases in the US
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