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Understanding the latest COVID variants on the rise, insights from ET HealthWorld

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what to know about the latest COVID variants on the rise, ET HealthWorld

In Australia, there is a surge in cold and flu cases, along with the prevalence of bacterial pathogens causing illness, especially in children. In addition to the usual suspects like influenza and rhinoviruses, the latest variant, nicknamed “FLuQE,” is gaining traction in the country and across the globe.

Recent months have seen the emergence of “FLiRT” subvariants, descendants of the Omicron variant JN.1, including KP.1.1, KP.2, and JN.1.7. These variants, with specific amino acid substitutions in the spike protein, have contributed to COVID infections, with KP.2 being particularly significant in Australia.

The FLiRT mutations, while reducing the ability of neutralizing antibodies to bind to the spike protein, may have affected the virus’s ability to infect our cells. However, the newly emerged FLuQE variant, a direct descendant of FLiRT, has an additional amino acid change in the spike protein (Q493E), enhancing the virus’s ability to infect cells.

Experts believe that FLuQE’s additional mutation has restored fitness lost with the FLiRT variants, making it well-adapted to infect cells and evade immunity. This ongoing evolution of the virus poses challenges for current vaccines, which may not provide sufficient protection against infection or suppress virus transmission effectively.

As the global community grapples with the rise of new variants like FLuQE, the need for next-generation vaccines and therapies becomes increasingly urgent. Immune-stimulating nasal sprays and nasal vaccines are among the innovations in clinical development to combat the evolving virus and reduce the emergence of new subvariants driving waves of infection and disease.

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