COVID-19 variants called ‘FLiRT’ continue to spread across the US, CDC says

New FLiRT COVID-19 Variants Surge: CDC Sounds Alarm Across the US | Insider Market Research

(Source – Yahoo)

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals the emergence of a novel series of COVID-19 variants, colloquially dubbed FLiRT, detected through wastewater surveillance.

Between April 14 and April 27, the variant designated as KP.2 accounted for approximately 25% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, marking its ascension as the predominant variant nationwide, surpassing the previously dominant JN.1 variant. JN.1, which gained global traction during the winter months, constituted 22% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. during the same fortnight.

Another FLiRT variant, identified as KP.1.1, circulated concurrently, comprising roughly 7.5% of COVID-19 cases within the specified timeframe, as per CDC statistics. Megan L. Ranney, dean of the Yale School of Public Health, voiced concerns over FLiRT’s distinctive characteristics, particularly alterations observed in the spike protein, pivotal in facilitating SARS-CoV-2 infection and subsequent illness manifestation.

Cautioned against the backdrop of waning immunity

Despite the emergence of FLiRT variants, vaccination uptake remains a subject of scrutiny. According to CDC data, a mere 22.6% of adults reported receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine for the 2023-24 season since September 2023. Vaccination coverage exhibited an age-dependent trend, with the highest rates observed among adults aged 75 and above. Thomas A. Russo, chief of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, cautioned against the backdrop of waning immunity among segments of the population, highlighting heightened susceptibility to potential waves of infection.

Efforts to obtain further insights into the FLiRT variant through CDC channels have been made by USA TODAY; however, responses from the CDC are currently pending. As the scientific community continues to monitor and respond to the evolving landscape of COVID-19 variants, enhanced surveillance, and proactive measures are imperative in mitigating potential public health threats and safeguarding community well-being.

Coupled with diminishing immunity

Preliminary indications suggest that KP.2 might exhibit higher transmissibility compared to preceding variants, although it remains too premature to ascertain whether it poses a heightened danger.

Continuous surveillance of this variant’s dissemination is essential, yet challenging given the inconsistent nature of current testing protocols,” stated Young. “The proliferation of novel virus variants, coupled with diminishing immunity, presents a particular concern for the most vulnerable segments of the population—the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems,” Young emphasized that one such FLiRT variant, designated as KP.2, accounts for 25 percent of fresh infections in the U.S., according to CDC data. “This raises apprehensions regarding the potential emergence of a summertime surge in infections,” he remarked.

Initially identified in U.S. wastewater, FLiRT’s precise origins remain elusive,” remarked Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick in the U.K., in an interview with Newsweek. “Now, the FLiRT variant is proliferating within the U.S. and beyond.”

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