COVID-19.  What do we know about the new Omicron variant called BQ.1.1?

COVID-19. What do we know about the new Omicron variant called BQ.1.1?

The number of Covid-19 cases is stabilizing in mainland France according to the latest report dated October 20, 2022 by Public Health France. But the number of patients remains. ” raised “ and intensive care admissions (552, +8%) and deaths (390, +23%) continue to rise.

Since the resurgence of the epidemic observed in late September, the majority of cases continue to be of the BA.5 sublineage of the Omicron variant, at 93%. But scientists have noticed that a new subvariant of Omicron is taking up more and more space among the contaminations: BQ.1.1.

Between mid-September and mid-October it went from 2% to 16% in the Covid test sequences analyzed by Santé Publique France. “However, it is still too early to assess the possible impact of BQ.1.1 on the dynamics of the epidemic,” says the health agency.

This new variant seems to be booming in other European countries such as Italy, Holland or the United Kingdom, or even in the United States.

Also read: “Covid-19 is not over, the epidemic continues to kill”, warns the Minister of Health

The digestive symptoms hypothesis questioned

It is not yet clear what symptoms are caused by this new BQ.1.1 subvariant. Several doctors reportedly observed diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pains.

But this hypothesis still does not seem reliable: nothing has yet confirmed that Covid is the cause. However, if this turns out to be true, scientists fear that the epidemic will escape them because patients would no longer make the link to Covid and would no longer get tested.

Also read: Management of the Covid epidemic: where is the investigation on former members of the government?

A more resistant subvariant?

For some specialists, the BQ.1.1 would be more resistant. “The experimental work showed that it escapes our antibodies more”declares Rémi Salomon, president of the Conference of the Establishment Medical Commission (CME) of the French CHUs, on Twitter.

This new member of the Omicron family would be “riddled with problematic mutations” who could “they pose a threat to the response of our immune system”, explains Dr. Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute to echoes .

Antony Fauci, medical adviser to the president of the United States, adds that this variant is a “Black Box” to several unknowns. According to him, its evolution will depend “previous vaccinations, previous exposures, and the region of the country in which it is located.”

For the Minister of Health François Braun, questioned about BFM-TV this Sunday October 23 BQ.1.1 “Progress” but “the risk of immune escape [l’inefficacité des vaccins] it is not tested. The clinical signs are almost the same as BA.5. It is no more serious.”

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