Latest variants of COVID-19 can evade vaccine protection, according to New Data
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New laboratory data suggests that vaccines and previous infections may not offer sufficient protection against several new variants of COVID-19 in the United States and around the world.
Dr. David Ho, Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center (ADARC) at Columbia University, and his team reported the results of several studies at the ADARC Symposium. They showed how well some of the latest variants, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB and XBB.1, all from Omicron, evade both vaccine- and infection-derived immunity.
These new variants all have mutations in the region that binds to and infects cells, meaning they are highly transmissible, just like the earlier Omicron variants. BQ.1 is steadily increasing in France, according to a public database of SARS-CoV-2 variants. GISAID:. By mid-November, European health officials expect the option to be available account for 50% of cases in Europeand to become the dominant strain in that region by early 2023. XBB is growing rapidly in Singapore and India. Both variants gave rise to new strains that each received an additional mutation to create BQ.1.1 and XBB.1. As of early November, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 combined now form about 35% new cases in the US
Other: studies similar levels of antibody protection against BQ.1 were found in vaccinated individuals. But Ho’s group has performed what is likely the most comprehensive look to date of BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB, and XBB.1, and how existing immunity is, from initial mRNA vaccines, new Omicron enhancers, and from natural infections. until them. The scientists took blood sera from 88 people from five groups (below) and subjected it to four laboratory tests. Here’s what they found.
Fully vaccinated and once boosted people (three total frames of primary mRNA vaccines) had 37- and 55-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, than against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, and about 70-fold lower neutralization. Against XBB and XBB.1.
Fully vaccinated and double boosted people (four total frames of primary mRNA vaccines) had 43- and 81-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 than against the parent virus, respectively, and 145- and 155-fold lower neutralization against XBB and : XBB.1, respectively.
Fully vaccinated and double boosted people (three shots of the original vaccine plus one Omicron amplifier) had 24- and 41-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, respectively, than they had against the parent virus, and 66- and 85-fold lower neutralization against XBB and XBB.1 to, respectively.
Fully vaccinated individuals who received the original booster and who were infected with BA.2 had 20- and 29-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 than the parent virus, and 103- and 135-fold lower neutralization against XBB and XBB.1, respectively.
Fully vaccinated individuals who received the original booster and who were infected with BA.4 or BA.5 had 13- and 31-fold lower neutralization against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 than the parent virus, respectively, and 86- and 96-fold lower neutralization against XBB and XBB.1, respectively.
The results show that people infected with BA.2, BA.4 or BA.5 generally had the smallest decline in neutralizing antibody levels against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. But people who had three doses of the original vaccine and one Omicron booster had only slightly better neutralizing antibody protection against XBB and XBB.1 than those who had received three doses of the original vaccine. Public health experts say that while vaccines may be waning in effectiveness against new variants, they continue to protect people from severe COVID-19. There is early evidence that vaccine-induced immunity can also lead to a broader range of virus-fighting antibodies over time.
However, these results are a reminder that vaccines and drug treatments must evolve along with the virus. “These new variants are too good at evading our antibodies and are very likely to compromise the effectiveness of our vaccines,” says Ho. They may also evade existing antibody-based treatments for COVID-19, he says. It National Institutes of Health guidelines for treating COVID-19 currently includes only one monoclonal antibody therapy, bebtelovimab, because the virus has evaded all previously approved antibody treatments. But in an October update, NIH scientists acknowledged that “BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subtypes are likely to be resistant to bebtelovimab.” Therefore, the drug is recommended only if people cannot take antiviral drugs Paxlovid or redesivir, or if these drugs are not available. The virus can evade these treatments as well, but they remain the first line of defense against severe SARS-CoV-2.
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The good news is that where these variants are circulating, they do not appear to be associated with more severe COVID-19 disease, as measured by hospitalizations and deaths, than other iterations of Omicron. However, public health experts say the rise in infections could still strain health care resources, especially as other respiratory infections, including: the flu and: RSV:, also gather momentum. The combination of several infectious diseases circulating can mean more illnesses overall and, in turn, more people who may experience severe illness and require intensive medical care.
The increase in BQ.1, BQ.1.1, XBB and XBB.1 points to the fact that when it comes to immunity, the virus can always be one step ahead, especially when it comes to vaccines. “I would start making these vaccines and start testing them on animals,” Ho says. Even if those efforts begin now, it’s possible they may still be able to keep up with the virus and the new mutations it continues to acquire. That’s why researchers are working to develop vaccines that are more universally applicable to a number of different coronaviruses, which could shorten the time it takes for a vaccinated population to develop immunity.
Correction, November 9
The original version of the story misstated the status of the data in question. The data will be submitted to a journal but not yet published.
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