New corona variants keep popping up. One of them is the mutation BQ.1.1. According to experts, it can trigger the next wave of infections. And it is already spreading in Germany. What is known about the new variant.

The coronavirus is mutating. Constant. It’s constantly evolving new traits to evade the antibodies we’ve built up from previous infections and vaccinations. There is then talk of an “immune escape”. The more pronounced this immune escape, the greater the risk that the protection provided by the vaccination will no longer be sufficient to prevent severe courses.

A variant that escapes our immune system particularly well now seems to be spreading worldwide. Experts have been warning of BQ.1.1, a subline of BA.5, for several weeks. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is also concerned. And on Twitter, a Cambridge scientist now even explains that this is probably the variant that will bring us the next wave. We took a closer look at BQ.1.1.

BQ.1.1 has so far appeared in Europe and North America. “Their relative share has more than doubled every week,” writes Cambridge researcher Cornelius Römer on Twitter. It becomes “pretty clear that BQ.1.1 will trigger a wave of variants in Europe and North America before the end of November”.

Compared to the BA.5 variant currently predominant, the sub-line probably has a transmission advantage of more than ten percent, Römer further explains. In addition, BQ.1.1 is “significantly faster” than the omicron variant BA.2.75.2, which has recently appeared in at least 35 countries and 20 US states.

The number of cases in Germany has already increased as much as in the previous year, although the new variants have not yet had any great effect. The next few months could therefore be “a bumpy ride”. !function(){var t=window.addEventListener?”addEventListener”:”attachEvent”;(0,window[t])(“attachEvent”==t?”onmessage”:”message”,function(t){if (“string”==typeof

As new analyzes by the German genome sequencer Moritz Gerstung show, BQ.1.1 has already arrived in Germany – and has been spreading since the end of September. This is illustrated by the evaluations that the expert recently published on Twitter.

As Gerstung explains, the new variants – including BQ.1.1 – have so far made up a comparatively small proportion of the increasing numbers. However, it is clearly evident that the case numbers of BQ.1.1 are increasing enormously compared to the others. The scientist explains that the variant alone combines five mutations in the spike protein and is the fastest of all the subtypes. It has a fitness benefit of about 10 to 15 percent. The scenario is reminiscent of this spring: BA.5 had a comparable advantage over BA.2 – and it only took a few months for BA.5 to replace its predecessors.

The rate of the immune-volatile variant would still be less than one percent at the beginning of October. In view of the high transmission advantage, however, it can be assumed that this value will also increase continuously.

The specific extent of BQ.1.1 in Germany is currently unclear. Because significantly fewer samples of the virus are sequenced in this country than in other countries.

BQ.1.1 shows “a comparable immune escape and mutations at similar positions” as BA.2.75.2, explains Richard Neher, head of the research group Evolution of Viruses and Bacteria, Biozentrum, University of Basel. Recently published preprint studies from China and Sweden have shown that this variant is recognized much more poorly by human antibodies.

Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach also warned in an interview with the “FAZ”: “If the variant BQ.1.1 prevails, those who were infected in the summer would probably be easily infected again.”

Biochemist Römer also adds “bad news”: that BQ.1.1 escapes all available monoclonal antibody cocktails – even those that still work against BA.5.

New Corona variants are named according to the rules of the Pango nomenclature, which was set up in 2020 to track them. Based on two variants (A and B), their sub-variants are designated with numbers. However, so that these designations do not become too confusing, a letter is used after the third number instead of the fourth, in this case “Q”. The alternative name for BQ.1.1 would otherwise be the following: B.1.1.529.

Final statements about the effectiveness of the vaccinations in relation to BQ.1.1 cannot be made so far. However, since BQ.1.1 is a BA.5 offspring, experts consider the vaccine adapted to it to be the most sensible. “So the BA.5 booster protects best,” writes biochemist Römer. After all, the vaccine adapted to BA.1 is better than that against the wild type, which in turn is better than none at all. In other words: Vaccination makes sense in any case, but according to Römer, the newer vaccines offer the best protection. “Looks like now is a pretty good time to get a booster.”