Big COVID-19 waves may be coming, new Omicron strains suggest

Kenneth Griffin

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Emerging subvariants have hit on a combination of mutations that makes them more immune evasive than ever​


Nearly 3 years into the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 faces a formidable challenge: finding new ways around the immunity humans have built up through vaccines and countless infections. Worrisome new data show it is up to the challenge. Several new and highly immune-evasive strains of the virus have caught scientists’ attention in recent weeks; one or more may well cause big, new COVID-19 waves this fall and winter.

“We can say with certainty that something is coming. Probably multiple things are coming,” says Cornelius Roemer, who studies viral evolution at the University of Basel. Whether they will also lead to many hospitalizations and deaths is the big question.

“It’s not surprising that we’re seeing changes that yet again help the virus to evade immune responses,” says molecular epidemiologist Emma Hodcroft of the University of Bern, who notes that SARS-CoV-2 faces “the same challenge that things like the common cold and influenza face every year—how to make a comeback.”

The strains that look poised to drive the latest comeback are all subvariants of Omicron, which swept the globe over the past year. Several derived from BA.2, a strain that succeeded the initial BA.1 strain of Omicron but then was itself outcompeted in most places by BA.5, which has dominated in recent months. One of these, BA.2.75.2, seems to be spreading quickly in India, Singapore, and parts of Europe. Other new immune-evading strains have evolved from BA.5, including BQ.1.1, which has been spotted in multiple countries around the globe.

Despite their different origins, several of the new strains have chanced upon a similar combination of mutations to help scale the wall of immunity—a striking example of convergent evolution. They all have changes at half a dozen key points in the viral genome that influence how well neutralizing antibodies from vaccination or previous infection bind to the virus, says evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

To quickly gauge how well any new subvariant may evade immunity, researchers make copies of the viruses’ spike proteins and expose them to monoclonal antibodies or sera from people to measure how well the antibodies can block the variants from infecting cells. Using such tests, researchers in China and Sweden have found that spike protein from BA.2.75.2 can effectively evade nearly all the monoclonal antibodies used for treating COVID-19, suggesting these treatments may become useless.

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Both groups also found that BA.2.75.2 seems very good at evading immunity in humans. In a preprint posted on 19 September, immunologist Ben Murrell at the Karolinska Institute and his colleagues reported that serum samples from 18 blood donors in Stockholm—where vaccination rates are high and prior infections widespread—were less than one-sixth as effective at neutralizing BA.2.75.2 compared with BA.5. “This is the most resistant variant we’ve ever evaluated,” says Karolinska virologist Daniel Sheward.

Immunologist Yunlong Richard Cao at Peking University and his colleagues found similar results for BA.2.75.2 after testing blood samples from 40 people who had been vaccinated with three doses of CoronaVac, a vaccine made from inactivated virus, and 100 more who had been vaccinated and then had breakthrough infections with BA.1, BA.2, or BA.5. The team found that BQ.1.1 had a similarly striking ability to evade antibodies.

In their preprint, updated on 23 September, Cao and his colleagues also report that the new variants do not seem to have lost any ability to bind tightly to the receptor on human cells that the virus uses to infect them, which means the variants’ infectiousness has likely not decreased. And they report some evidence that infections with the variants trigger proportionally more of the wrong types of antibodies—those that bind tightly to the virus but don’t blunt its ability to infect cells. All of that could portend a massive new wave, Cao says. “The scale of immune evasion has never been seen before, and the virus is still rapidly evolving,” he says. “It’s very bad.”

Sheward and Murrell agree we should expect lots of infections in the next few months, as happened last winter when Omicron entered the scene. But they’re less pessimistic than Cao, noting that many more people have recovered from an infection now or have received additional vaccine doses, including Omicron-specific boosters, whose rollout began this month. Those will boost overall antibody levels and will likely broaden the antibody repertoire, Sheward says: “I don’t think we’re quite back to square one.”

“The choice to put BA.5 in the vaccine booster is still looking like a good one,” Bloom adds. “The boosters are always going to be a step behind, but the good news is that the BA.5 booster is going to be one or two steps behind the virus’ evolution, instead of five steps behind.”

Just how brutal a comeback the coronavirus has managed will become clear once more people become infected with the new strains. The next wave may also provide better clues about what factors trigger or prevent severe disease, Murrell says: “I think we’re going to learn a lot this winter.”
 

Joes Place

HR King
Aug 28, 2003
127,492
124,867
113


Emerging subvariants have hit on a combination of mutations that makes them more immune evasive than ever​


Nearly 3 years into the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 faces a formidable challenge: finding new ways around the immunity humans have built up through vaccines and countless infections. Worrisome new data show it is up to the challenge. Several new and highly immune-evasive strains of the virus have caught scientists’ attention in recent weeks; one or more may well cause big, new COVID-19 waves this fall and winter.

“We can say with certainty that something is coming. Probably multiple things are coming,” says Cornelius Roemer, who studies viral evolution at the University of Basel. Whether they will also lead to many hospitalizations and deaths is the big question.

“It’s not surprising that we’re seeing changes that yet again help the virus to evade immune responses,” says molecular epidemiologist Emma Hodcroft of the University of Bern, who notes that SARS-CoV-2 faces “the same challenge that things like the common cold and influenza face every year—how to make a comeback.”

The strains that look poised to drive the latest comeback are all subvariants of Omicron, which swept the globe over the past year. Several derived from BA.2, a strain that succeeded the initial BA.1 strain of Omicron but then was itself outcompeted in most places by BA.5, which has dominated in recent months. One of these, BA.2.75.2, seems to be spreading quickly in India, Singapore, and parts of Europe. Other new immune-evading strains have evolved from BA.5, including BQ.1.1, which has been spotted in multiple countries around the globe.

Despite their different origins, several of the new strains have chanced upon a similar combination of mutations to help scale the wall of immunity—a striking example of convergent evolution. They all have changes at half a dozen key points in the viral genome that influence how well neutralizing antibodies from vaccination or previous infection bind to the virus, says evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

To quickly gauge how well any new subvariant may evade immunity, researchers make copies of the viruses’ spike proteins and expose them to monoclonal antibodies or sera from people to measure how well the antibodies can block the variants from infecting cells. Using such tests, researchers in China and Sweden have found that spike protein from BA.2.75.2 can effectively evade nearly all the monoclonal antibodies used for treating COVID-19, suggesting these treatments may become useless.

ADVERTISEMENT​



Both groups also found that BA.2.75.2 seems very good at evading immunity in humans. In a preprint posted on 19 September, immunologist Ben Murrell at the Karolinska Institute and his colleagues reported that serum samples from 18 blood donors in Stockholm—where vaccination rates are high and prior infections widespread—were less than one-sixth as effective at neutralizing BA.2.75.2 compared with BA.5. “This is the most resistant variant we’ve ever evaluated,” says Karolinska virologist Daniel Sheward.

Immunologist Yunlong Richard Cao at Peking University and his colleagues found similar results for BA.2.75.2 after testing blood samples from 40 people who had been vaccinated with three doses of CoronaVac, a vaccine made from inactivated virus, and 100 more who had been vaccinated and then had breakthrough infections with BA.1, BA.2, or BA.5. The team found that BQ.1.1 had a similarly striking ability to evade antibodies.

In their preprint, updated on 23 September, Cao and his colleagues also report that the new variants do not seem to have lost any ability to bind tightly to the receptor on human cells that the virus uses to infect them, which means the variants’ infectiousness has likely not decreased. And they report some evidence that infections with the variants trigger proportionally more of the wrong types of antibodies—those that bind tightly to the virus but don’t blunt its ability to infect cells. All of that could portend a massive new wave, Cao says. “The scale of immune evasion has never been seen before, and the virus is still rapidly evolving,” he says. “It’s very bad.”

Sheward and Murrell agree we should expect lots of infections in the next few months, as happened last winter when Omicron entered the scene. But they’re less pessimistic than Cao, noting that many more people have recovered from an infection now or have received additional vaccine doses, including Omicron-specific boosters, whose rollout began this month. Those will boost overall antibody levels and will likely broaden the antibody repertoire, Sheward says: “I don’t think we’re quite back to square one.”

“The choice to put BA.5 in the vaccine booster is still looking like a good one,” Bloom adds. “The boosters are always going to be a step behind, but the good news is that the BA.5 booster is going to be one or two steps behind the virus’ evolution, instead of five steps behind.”

Just how brutal a comeback the coronavirus has managed will become clear once more people become infected with the new strains. The next wave may also provide better clues about what factors trigger or prevent severe disease, Murrell says: “I think we’re going to learn a lot this winter.”

#ThisIsWhatReallyKilledTheDinosaurs
 

Finance85

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Oct 22, 2003
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Joes Place

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When a virus is engineered to be more infectious, this is what we end up with.

#Doesn'tReadHisOwnLinks

Adherents of the idea that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from a natural spillover from animal hosts have argued that it could have evolved naturally from an as-yet undiscovered virus. Further, they argued, scientists were unlikely to have engineered the feature.

“There is no logical reason why an engineered virus would utilize such a suboptimal furin cleavage site, which would entail such an unusual and needlessly complex feat of genetic engineering,” 23 scientists wrote earlier this month in an article in the journal Cell. “There is no evidence of prior research at the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] involving the artificial insertion of complete furin cleavage sites into coronaviruses.”
 

NoleATL

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When a virus is engineered to be more infectious, this is what we end up with.

https://www.theblaze.com/news/ecohe...nts-on-deadly-mers-virus-in-china#toggle-gdpr

https://theintercept.com/2021/09/23/coronavirus-research-grant-darpa/

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21066966-defuse-proposal

In fairness, the DARPA proposal was rejected by DARPA. That proposal is similar to the proposal funded by NIAID at the Wuhan Lab (posted previously).
This was so funny I actually gave you a LOL reaction to add to your reaction score.
 

Joes Place

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"that causes a 1900% increase in risk" - In actual data, what does that mean?
It means that if you're unvaccinated and get Covid, your risk is 19x higher

And while quite a few "recover" from those very serious conditions, they do not do so 100%.
And due to the 3x higher rates of deaths without vaccination, a lot of people do not recover.

Recall that your risk for myocarditis is much higher from Covid than it is from any vaccine.
 

Joes Place

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Is that similar to my risk of dying today going up because I start my car?

More like your risk of death if you don't wear your seatbelt.

I mean, there's a good chance you won't get into any accidents today, so, what's the point?
 

Hawki97

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More like your risk of death if you don't wear your seatbelt.

I mean, there's a good chance you won't get into any accidents today, so, what's the point?

I’m asking this not to argue, but because I’m curious. Do you do anything that puts your life and well being at elevated risk beyond “normal” living conditions? It doesn’t have to be BASE jumping - just trying to better grasp what your risk thresholds are and how they dictate your interests and daily life.
 

Joes Place

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I’m asking this not to argue, but because I’m curious. Do you do anything that puts your life and well being at elevated risk beyond “normal” living conditions?

What's "normal"?

Do you take basic precautions to minimize risks where you can?
I wear a seatbelt when I drive
I wear a helmet when cycling.
 

unIowa

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I just read something about the long term impacts on on CV systems. I don't think the US govt wants to highlight this but it could help explain why China has been so strong with its COVID response and protocols.

Also...it would be nice if our FDA would approve the NVAX vaccine as a booster as it has been shown to have superior cross variant protection when compared to mRNAs. I hope they choose science and the well being of the public over big pharm and the political donations they hand out.
 
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Joes Place

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You are lying again.

I won't bother pointing out why. You will still lie.





You've had a boner for Vitamin D as a treatment for well over a year...

IT.IS.WORTHLESS
 

EasyHawk

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All we know for sure in Iowa is if the virus takes off again this fall, as always, we can count on Iowan's to do the right thing.
 
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Hawki97

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What's "normal"?

Do you take basic precautions to minimize risks where you can?
I wear a seatbelt when I drive
I wear a helmet when cycling.

Yeah, normal is hard to exactly define. Let me give some examples.

Would you ride your bicycle on two lane road without a shoulder?

You live in Colorado where outdoor activities are common and some are riskier than others. For example, would you go free (not free solo) rock climbing?

Would you participate in a track day where you would drive a vehicle in a closed environment but at speeds and conditions riskier than “normal?”

Those are examples that many would say are “above normal” than the average Joe’s risk tolerance. Do you have any interests like that?
 

Joes Place

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Yeah, normal is hard to exactly define. Let me give some examples.

Would you ride your bicycle on two lane road without a shoulder?

You live in Colorado where outdoor activities are common and some are riskier than others. For example, would you go free (not free solo) rock climbing?

Would you participate in a track day where you would drive a vehicle in a closed environment but at speeds and conditions riskier than “normal?”

Those are examples that many would say are “above normal” than the average Joe’s risk tolerance. Do you have any interests like that?

What does any of this have to do with taking a vaccine against a disease that can seriously harm you?

When the risk of the vaccine is LOWER than the disease? That's Risk Management: 101 right there.
Do you understand what risk management is?
 

dgordo

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I just read something about the long term impacts on on CV systems. I don't think the US govt wants to highlight this but it could help explain why China has been so strong with its COVID response and protocols.

Also...it would be nice if our FDA would approve the NVAX vaccine as a booster as it has been shown to have superior cross variant protection when compared to mRNAs. I hope they choose science and the well being of the public over big pharm and the political donations they hand out.

Talk to any cardiologist and they will tell you they are already seeing the impact. Non traditional patients are having CV issues at much greater frequency.
 
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SoDakHawk

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They never miss a chance to minimize a disease killing 3k Americans every week.
Cancer kills 1,670 Americans each day. i wish we had every penny back that we spent on this Covid BS and instead just ignored the virus and treated it like the common cold and instead spent that money on curing cancer. The country would be far better off from a health care and economic standpoint.
 

alaskanseminole

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running-screaming.gif
 

EasyHawk

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I was surprised my company is not doing on-site booster clinics. They did it for the original vaccine and for the first booster. I don't know anyone who has gotten the latest yet, I was going to get it here at work when offered, but that isn't an option. I do not believe the take rate will be very high with this one.
 
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Kenneth Griffin

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Cancer kills 1,670 Americans each day. i wish we had every penny back that we spent on this Covid BS and instead just ignored the virus and treated it like the common cold and instead spent that money on curing cancer. The country would be far better off from a health care and economic standpoint.

Or maybe we should treat both as the real problems that they are. calling covid the common cold is insane. How many people die from colds?
 

Kenneth Griffin

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I was surprised my company is not doing on-site booster clinics. They did it for the original vaccine and for the first booster. I don't know anyone who has gotten the latest yet, I was going to get it here at work when offered, but that isn't an option. I do not believe the take rate will be very high with this one.

Every doctor I know has already gotten this booster, I think that says something.
 

unIowa

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Cancer kills 1,670 Americans each day. i wish we had every penny back that we spent on this Covid BS and instead just ignored the virus and treated it like the common cold and instead spent that money on curing cancer. The country would be far better off from a health care and economic standpoint.
Ahhhhh, wat???

NCI-Funding-for-Cancer-Research-graph-enlarge.gif
 
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Hawki97

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What does any of this have to do with taking a vaccine against a disease that can seriously harm you?

When the risk of the vaccine is LOWER than the disease? That's Risk Management: 101 right there.
Do you understand what risk management is?

I’m not talking Covid. Just trying to understand your general risk tolerance. You seem very risk averse but maybe I’m misreading you - but I really have no other frame for reference than your Covid discussions, which is why I asked about situations outside of it
 
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Rifler

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I was surprised my company is not doing on-site booster clinics. They did it for the original vaccine and for the first booster. I don't know anyone who has gotten the latest yet, I was going to get it here at work when offered, but that isn't an option. I do not believe the take rate will be very high with this one.

Wait until you start reading about hundreds of thousands of doses being tossed for lack of use...
 
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Joes Place

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There's new data coming out about the safety of the mRNA vaccines.

Here's a link that discusses that.

Cardiologist Who Promoted COVID Vaccines Releases Peer-Reviewed Papers Calling for Suspension of mRNA Shots


https://tennesseestar.com/2022/09/2...-papers-calling-for-suspension-of-mrna-shots/

Wonder why he posted those papers in The Journal Of Insulin Resistance...

Doesn't seem like the place you'd put something groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting, when your focus is epidemiology and vaccines....
 
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