The corona virus is constantly changing. That is now known. There are also different lines from the Omikron variant, which reshuffled the Corona game last fall. A researcher is now warning of BJ.1. The worrying lower line has also arrived in Austria.

Researchers from all over the world are closely observing how the coronavirus is evolving. New variants and subtypes appear regularly. Very few of them are of great importance in the pandemic. With Omikron in November 2021 it was different. The crisis changed decisively. On the one hand, the mutated form was highly contagious, on the other hand, it tended to be less disease-causing.

Since the spread can often be rapid, experts are vigilant. The “Cov-lineages” website documents which corona variants occur where. Now they have Omikron BJ.1 in their sights. “Another worrying sublineage is spreading in India and has also arrived in the US and Europe (Austria): BJ.1,” writes mutation researcher Ulrich Elling. “The numbers are still very low, but the newly acquired mutations are really a nasty combination at critical points.”

BJ.1 is a BA.2 subline with 14 additional mutations in the spike protein (plus others), explains Elling for this type of omicron, which was discovered a month ago. What is immediately obvious: the many new mutations occur densely and frequently at the sites for receptor binding and antibody binding.

“This mutation package makes another significant immune evasion very likely,” says the biologist, meaning the probability that this corona variant can evade the immune system even more than previous variants. One can only hope that the virus comes at a cost in terms of infectivity.

The fact that the virus is currently mutating so severely is generally related to the immunological situation in the population. Vaccinations and a large number of infections have increased the selection pressure for Sars-CoV-2, the virologist Stephan Becker recently wrote in a guest article in “Stern”. “Viruses that evade the antibodies better through a random mutation now have a survival advantage. “

The virus still has many opportunities to change further. “No one can predict what properties it will have,” explained Becker. “Waiting and hoping that it will become more and more harmless is not an option.”

Instead, the virologist recommends putting together a toolbox – “from which you can get different tools depending on the epidemiological situation”.

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At the present time, no statement can be made about BJ.1 as to how important it will be for the infection process. Or whether the lower line remains one among many. Because from BA.2 the development branches out widely.

Several factors remain decisive for how dangerous they become for people: Firstly, it is not a fundamentally different virus, but remains Sars-CoV-2. Most people in Germany have now become acquainted with this – either through infection or vaccination – usually even several times. This means that our immune system is no longer “naïve”, as it is called in technical jargon. It knows the opponent and can react to him.

How well it can react depends on the individual. In any case, the immune system knows the corona virus in different variants – since it does not change completely, there is always immunity against areas that have not mutated. Experts like the immunologist Carsten Watzl assume that immunity in Germany is now around 95 percent. Society is therefore no longer as vulnerable as it was at the beginning of the corona crisis.

Second, many in the community agree that a “killer variant” that could combine devastating properties is extremely unlikely. Virologist Ulf Dittmer considered such an evolution in reverse in an interview with FOCUS online to be unrealistic. Virologist Ulrike Protzer also made a statement. With all the experiences from the pandemic years, researcher Elling appeals to his colleagues and emphasizes that continuous monitoring is of crucial importance.