2 COVID variants might be more severe than thought

Two COVID-19 omicron subvariants that emerged in 2023, BA.2.86 and JN.1, may be more severe than previously thought, according to research published Jan. 8 in the journal Cell.

Led by researchers from Ohio State University, the study focuses on the mutations in the spike protein of BA.2.86, specifically finding that it "appears to have increased infectivity of human lung epithelial cells compared to all omicron variants…(which) raises a potential concern about whether or not this virus is more pathogenic," Shan-Lu Liu, MD, PhD, senior author the study and a virology professor at OSU stated in a news release.

And while still effective, they also concluded that bivalent vaccine efficiency is also reduced for this variant. 

The CDC would not directly comment on the findings on severity of these two COVID-19 strains since it was an outside study, but did point to its most recent report, which highlights that JN.1 is an offspring of BA.2.86, according to the CDC, and currently accounts for 62% of all COVID-19 cases nationally.

As infections and hospitalizations have sharply increased for multiple weeks in a row, the CDC report also notes that the recent strain, JN.1, "may be intensifying the spread of COVID-19 this winter."


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