Journal Science on COVID Waves This Winter

COVID strains that look poised to drive the latest comeback are all subvariants of Omicron, which swept the globe over the past year.

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.

The new strains 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.

There is near certainty that there will be a lot of infections this winter. The uncertainty is how severe or mild the resulting illness will be.

6 thoughts on “Journal Science on COVID Waves This Winter”

  1. So, um , the point of the mRNA vaccines was fast adjustment/production as variants emerge. Approval agencies are (rightly) still a bit hesitant about fast approvals for specific formulations, but in principle they are for fast mRNA vaccine rollout, and for multivalent (AKA multi-variant supporting) vaccines/boosters.

    Hopefully people still remember that flu vaccines were usually based on a candidate set of 10-15 flu variants, largely collected from western china, of which only 2-3 variants are selected, then a half-year runup for bulk production using previous vaccine manufacturing methods (like using chicken eggs!).

    With the ease of tinkering with mRNA and immediately producing it (if the production line is up), means even if COVID is now endemic, COVID (and regular flu for that matter) can be dealt with much better, provided it can be deployed in bulk, in time. As long as we delay variant fixes, and keep the multi-variant count low (current approved COVID boosters are bivalent only), we are never going to improve over past flu measures when dealing with COVID.

    The US VA had recent work a 10 variant sphere structure for a vaccine, and there has also been other recent work on multivalent mRNA vaccines. Why is this not being prioritized?

    • I think it’s politics: Trump pushed the development of mRNA vaccines, hard. “Operation Warp Speed” was his baby.

      So the incoming, opposing party administration aborted it.

      That said, I see a couple problems, not with the concept of mRNA vaccines, but with the execution.

      1) Premature optimization: They were so determined to reach sterilizing immunity that they made the original vaccine too specific, allowing the virus to evolve resistance.

      2) My pet peeve: Improper injection technique: They’ve given up on the old technique where you attempt to aspirate blood, after inserting the needle, to confirm that you haven’t accidentally landed in a blood vessel. If you do hit one, all the irritation that was going to give you a big goose egg at the injection site gets distributed through your circulatory system, which is NOT good.

  2. At this point it’s a seasonal virus. I live in the South Carolina Piedmont region, and if you look at the case numbers, the peaks perfectly coincide with heating and air conditioning seasons, and the virus just went away during the periods when the weather was nice enough that people spent a lot of time outdoors.

    I can’t help but think of how things would have gone if, instead of crashing the economy with lockdowns, they’d instead mounted a crash program to improve HVAC systems and roll out biosafe UV-C lighting.

    FYI: The name and email fields auto-filled with somebody else’s information. You might want to look into that.

    • Yep, it looks like by this time the virus has evolved enough not to kill (or permanently damage) it’s host, but just facilitate spreading.

      Dunno if anything other than lockdowns would help during the first waves of 1st half of 2020. As much as it pains me to admit that without them during this time my country’s healthcare system would totally collapse. Of course it can be argued that the SEVERITY of the lockdowns was way overblown.

      • At the time there was plenty of research indicating cross-immunity between Covid 19 and the Covid “common cold” viruses. Indeed, some immunologists were deliberately infecting themselves with those particular cold viruses, as a form of live vaccine. That was, rationally, an option that could have been pursued, or at least permitted. And done VERY quickly.

        But it seems the government is very comfortable with making catastrophically damaging economic decisions with dubious payoff, while being almost impossibly reluctant to permit options with much better risk reward ratios in the medical area.

Comments are closed.