The new crown virus is still raging around the world. The latest data released by the World Health Organization on November 15 showed that the cumulative number of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia worldwide reached 632.53 million. According to statistics from the National Health and Medical Commission, as of 24:00 on November 15, 2022, there were 1,568 new local cases and 18,491 new local asymptomatic infections across the country. As we all know, the new coronavirus has been mutating, and the new coronavirus strains sweeping the world are Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Since entering the Omicron period, the mutation frequency of the new coronavirus has increased.
Wang Tao, a professor at the School of Life Sciences of Tianjin University, said that the new coronavirus is an RNA virus. The structure of this type of virus is unstable. During the process of self-replication, the mutated gene will not be cleared, resulting in the continuous accumulation of mutated genes and the continuous mutation of the virus. On the other hand, the increase in Omicron’s mutation frequency is related to its characteristics.
Compared with previous mutated strains, Omicron is less virulent and spreads faster, which leads to a surge in the number of people infected and prolongs the survival time of the virus in the human body. Therefore, the number of self-replication of the virus increases, the probability of mutation also increases, and the number of subvariants appears. Viruses are constantly mutating, and our understanding of virus variants must also keep up. Manal Mohammed, an expert in biomicromedicine at the University of Westminster, UK, compiled 3 things that the public should know about Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.
Has the transmissibility of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 become stronger?
Yes. Although the speed of virus transmission is affected by many aspects, according to the current data, the transmissibility of Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 is stronger than that of the previous mutant strains. It grows from 5 sequences to 200 sequences in just 19 days.
Are vaccinations useful?
Various data at this stage indicate that Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have high immune escape properties and are more likely to escape antibodies produced by previous infection or vaccination.
It has been shown that previous infection with microparticle sublineages and immunity elicited by vaccination will likely not confer broad protection against BQ.1.1 infection. The enhanced immune escape ability means that patients will be reinfected. Epidemiologists at Washington University (St. Louis) in the United States have stated that the cumulative risk of severe illness or death may be higher for multiple infections.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants pose a threat to people with severely compromised immune systems, such as organ transplant patients and patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer. Such people take an antibody drug called Evusheld to protect themselves from serious disease, but BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants may be resistant to Evusheld, according to the National Institutes of Health.
so what should I do now? Isn’t the vaccine a waste of time? Not really.
Data from all over the world show that although the vaccine cannot block the transmission of Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, it can greatly reduce the probability of severe illness and death after infection. Therefore, vaccination is still an effective means of human self-protection at this stage. At the same time, in order to avoid repeated infections, wearing masks and washing hands frequently are still very effective ways to block transmission.
Are Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 highly toxic?
At this stage, there is no data showing that Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have an enhanced ability to cause severe disease compared with previous mutant strains. Omicron appeared on November 26, 2021. It has been nearly a year so far, and we have not found other types of mutant strains. This shows that Omicron is likely to completely eliminate popular strains such as Delta during the evolution process.
Omicron itself continues to mutate, and some scientists believe that it will reach a certain equilibrium state and become a resident virus on the earth, or even a local epidemic disease that is often prevalent. It is more likely that Omicron is the ultimate form of the new coronavirus, although it itself is still mutating.
At the same time, another data also brought good news: the number of COVID-19 deaths worldwide has gradually decreased to the lowest point since the Pandemic began in March 2020.
Finally, we must admit that the new crown epidemic is not over. The new coronavirus has also been mutating. We still need to keep an eye on the mutation of the virus and constantly adjust the goals and methods of research and epidemic prevention.