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 of October 20, 2022 from Public Health France. But the number of patients remains ” raised “ and critical care admissions (552, +8%) and deaths (390, +23%) continue to increase.

Since the epidemic resurgence observed at the end of September, the majority of cases are still from the BA.5 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant, at 93%. But scientists have noticed that a new sub-variant 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 sequences of Covid tests 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 on the increase in other European countries such as Italy, the Netherlands or the United Kingdom, or even in the United States.

Read also: “Covid-19 is not over, the epidemic is still killing”, warns the Minister of Health

The hypothesis of digestive symptoms questioned

It is still unclear which symptoms are caused by this new BQ.1.1 sub-variant. Several doctors reportedly observed diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach aches.

But this hypothesis does not yet seem reliable: nothing has yet confirmed that the 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 with Covid and would no longer test themselves.

Read also: Management of the Covid epidemic: where is the investigation concerning the former members of the government?

A more resistant sub-variant?

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

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

Antony Fauci, medical advisor 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 you are located”.

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

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