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Covid-19 Spread of JN.1 a Sub-Variant of Omicron

Spread of JN.1, a Sub-Variant of Omicron: Increased Infectivity?

Experts indicate that the surge in global COVID-19 cases may be attributed to JN.1, a sub-lineage of Omicron, which demonstrates a heightened ability to evade immunity. Recognizing its rapid dissemination, the World Health Organization (WHO) designates JN.1 as a “variant of interest” (VOI), distinct from its parent lineage, BA.2.86. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies it as the fastest-growing variant in the country. In India, where 21 cases of this sub-variant have been identified, concerns arise about its potential for rapid transmission. Know more about each variant.

“The virus exhibits heightened transmission, evades immunity, and extends its infectious period.”

Dr. Rajesh Karyakarte, the genome sequencing coordinator for Maharashtra, underscores the exponential growth advantage of JN.1. Referring to WHO data, he notes a substantial increase from 3.3% to 27% of all coronavirus cases between October 30 and November 5, indicating an 86% growth advantage. This surge is attributed to increased transmission, immune evasion, and an extended infectious period, suggesting that JN.1 is not only contagious but also adept at overcoming the body’s immune defenses.

The CDC adds that while JN.1 exhibits heightened transmission, it does not necessarily cause severe disease, as hospital admissions remain low. Experts reassure that the infection poses a low risk, particularly for individuals with prior infection and/or vaccination.

Genome researchers Vinod Scaria and Bani Jolly highlight the continuous evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with JN.1 characterized by an additional spike protein mutation, L455S. This unique mutation contributes to JN.1’s high immune evasion, allowing it to potentially out-compete other variants. A Lancet study confirms that this single mutation enables JN.1 to evade the immune response faster than its parent, BA.2.86.

Should we be concerned?

Infectious Disease expert Dr. Ameet Dravid acknowledges the virus’s natural evolution to strengthen itself. While the current treatment primarily addresses mild upper respiratory tract infections, Dr. Dravid warns of a potential spike in cases due to JN.1’s enhanced immune evasion. Emphasizing the importance of vaccination, especially for partially vaccinated individuals, he notes that no distinctive symptoms have been identified. As cases rise, Dr. Dravid recommends making masks mandatory in crowded locations and reinforcing basic respiratory etiquette, such as covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.

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