"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

What to know concerning the latest strains of COVID on the rise

We are within the midst of a nasty cold and flu season. In Australia. Along with the same old viral suspects, corresponding to influenza, RSV, and rhinoviruses (which cause the common cold), bacterial pathogens are also causing significant rates of illness, particularly in children. These include (Whooping cough) And .

Meanwhile, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID) is chargeable for recurring waves of infections since it continues to evolve and mutate into recent forms that make it difficult for our immune system to reply. Takes a step forward.

The latest variant is nicknamed “FLuQE”, and reportedly it's. Gaining traction In Australia and other countries. So what's there to learn about FLuQE?

From FLiRT to FLuQE

In recent months, you might have heard “FLiRT” Subvariants These are descendants of the Omicron variant JN.1, including KP.1.1, KP.2 and JN.1.7.

KP.2, specifically, contributed significantly to covid infections. In Australia And Elsewhere around May.

The name FLiRT refers back to the amino acid substitutions within the spike protein (F456L, V1104L and R346T). Amino acids are the molecular constructing blocks of proteins, and the spike protein is the protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 that enables it to connect to our cells. These changes within the spike protein are brought on by mutations – random changes within the genetic code of the virus.

SARS-CoV-2 goals to pick for mutations that produce a spike protein that binds tightly to receptors on our cells to facilitate efficient infection (sometimes called viral fitness) and our immune system. Avoid neutralizing antibodies within the system (immune suppression).

FLiRT mutations appear to cut back the flexibility of antibodies to bind to the spike protein, potentially enabling the virus to higher evade our immune system. But at the identical time, it seems that the immune pressure that chosen for these mutations could have affected the virus' ability to bind to our cells.

This Results It has yet to be peer-reviewed (independently verified by other researchers). However, they suggest that FLiRT variants could have traded a few of their ability to contaminate our cells for a spike protein that's more proof against our immune system.

COVID continues to be with us – and evolving.
Anna Chevets/Pixels

According to experts In Australia And Internationallywhich occurred with FLuQE is an extra mutation that restored fitness that was lost with FLiRT mutations.

FLuQE (KP.3) is a direct descendant of FLiRT, meaning it has inherited the identical mutations as FLiRT variants. But it has an extra amino acid change within the spike protein, Q493E (giving FLuQE its name).

it means. Amino acid glutamine is mutated to glutamic acid at position 493 (the spike protein is 1,273 amino acids long). Glutamine is a neutral amino acid, while glutamic acid has a negative charge, which changes the properties of the spike protein. This can improve the virus's ability to contaminate our cells.

It's early days for FLuQE and we don't yet have peer-reviewed research on it. But it seems we now have (one other) immune virus that can be well adapted to infecting our cells. It's no surprise, then, that FLuQE appears to be dominating it. Many countries.

A chart showing the distribution of COVID subtypes in New South Wales as of 15 June 2024.
In New South Wales, the proportion of COVID cases attributable to KP.3 is increasing.
NSW Health

What next?

We would expect that with widespread transmission and infection with FLiRT and FLuQE variants, population immunity to those variants would mature, and over time, their dominance would change into the subsequent immune evasion. might be replaced by a wide range of

The battle between our immune system and the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 continues. The problem we're coping with immediately is that vaccines don't sufficiently protect against infection or prevent transmission of the virus. Although they're excellent at stopping serious illness, the virus still infects many individuals.

Along with the burden on people and health care, more infections mean more opportunities for the virus to evolve. The more “dice rolls” the virus has to search out that help it evade our immune system and infect our cells, the more likely it's to accomplish that.

Next-generation vaccines and coverings really want to spice up immunity within the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) to cut back infection and transmission. This is where the infection starts. Oh A study of the human challengewhere volunteers were experimentally exposed to SARS-CoV-2, showed that those that weren't infected had a powerful antiviral immune response of their upper respiratory tract.

For this purpose, there are immune-stimulating nasal sprays. Nasal vaccine in clinical development. The hope is that this approach will slow the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and stop the emergence of latest subtypes that proceed to drive waves of infection and disease.

Fortunately, up to now these mutations haven't produced a virus that is clearly more pathogenic (causing the worst disease), but there isn't any guarantee that this may not occur in the long run.