Understanding the Softer Impact of the FLiRT Variants of COVID-19

The FLiRT variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have dominated globally this year. These variants, including KP.3, feature mutations on their spike protein, potentially evading antibodies. While evidence of increased severity or hospitalizations is limited, vaccine makers are designing new vaccines to target these variants.


Devdiscourse News Desk | Updated: 09-07-2024 21:22 IST | Created: 09-07-2024 21:22 IST
Understanding the Softer Impact of the FLiRT Variants of COVID-19
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The FLiRT variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have emerged as the predominant strains circulating worldwide in 2023, as reported by the World Health Organization. FLiRT stands for the specific locations of the mutations on the virus' spike protein, with one variant, KP.3, becoming the most widespread in the United States in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These FLiRT variants, which include the 'parental' lineage JN.1, have three key mutations on their spike protein that may help them evade antibodies, noted researchers from Johns Hopkins University. However, Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, NY, said there hasn't been a significant increase in disease severity or hospitalizations among his patients, attributing this to the widespread immunity from prior infections and vaccinations.

CDC data indicate a slight rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and positive cases in emergency rooms since April. Nonetheless, Dr. Glatt maintains that existing vaccines should still offer some protection against the new variants. Health regulators in Europe and the U.S. are instructing vaccine manufacturers to target new variants in upcoming vaccine iterations.

(Disclaimer: With inputs from agencies.)

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