New Omicron variant BJ.1 – dangerous mutation

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The new omicron subvariant BJ.1 has 14 mutations. “Heute” newspaper published an interview with Virologist Monika Redlberger-Fritz. The virologist explains how dangerous the mutation is.

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has evolved from its wild type into many subtypes: Alpha, Delta, Lambda, Omicron, and more. A new omicron subtype emerged in Austria: BJ.1 – a descendant of Omicron BA.2, which was predominant in the spring.

Like every previous variant, BJ.1 also has mutations in the surface protein (spike protein) – 14 in number. “These mutations are right where antibodies normally dock and neutralize it. In other words, the virus thus bypasses the immune system and perhaps has a spreading advantage,” explains virologist Monika Redlberger-Fritz in an interview with “Heute.” A strategy that other variants have also pursued, albeit to a different extent.

New Omicron variant BJ.1 emerged in Austria.

That the virus mutates is nothing special but is in its nature. “It constantly mutates to spread in the best possible way.” Currently, there are 361 subtypes alone, according to Omicron’s virologist. But for a new variant to become a dominant variant, it needs a selection advantage to displace the other variants. This happens precisely through mutations. The new omicron subvariant BJ.1 would have this advantage, says the virologist.

Also, the fact that antibodies don’t take hold with a new variant the way they did with variants before it is something researchers have observed since the pandemic began. “And now we’re just seeing it again,” Redlberger-Fritz says. So soon after the discovery, it would be impossible to say what effect these mutations would have on infectivity, disease production, or spread.

Currently, there are probably a handful of BJ.1 cases in Austria. Nonetheless, the vaccination recommendation remains in place. “Those with three vaccinations are protected against severe courses.” Currently, two Omicron-adapted vaccines are on the market. Meanwhile, the National Immunization Panel recommends the 4th prick for everyone 12 years and older.

  • source: heute.at/picture: pixabay.com
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