June 14th, 2024 | 4:50

Bizkaia

The FLiRT variant of Covid is already in Euskadi

The-FLiRT-variant-of-Covid-is-already-in-Euskadi-2

Jeickson Sulbaran

May 23, 2024 | 10:00 a.m.

First cases detected and forecasts on their impact on infections in Bizkaia, with expert analysis and data on mutations

The FLiRT variant is spreading in Spain and is expected to become dominant globally. The new variant has been detected at the Germans Trias hospital in Badalona, which marks the beginning of its presence in Spanish territory. This variant, with a greater contagion capacity than the previous ones, is not expected to cause a large increase in severe cases and hospitalizations. Experience in the US, where FLiRT has been circulating for three months, suggests that the variant will not cause a significant increase in severe cases.

The Germans Trias hospital in Badalona has detected the first two cases of covid caused by the new FLiRT variant in Spain. This variant has a higher contagion capacity than the previous ones, although it is not expected to cause a large increase in serious cases and hospitalizations.

The FLiRT variant of Covid is already in Euskadi

The experience in the USA, where FLiRT has been circulating for three months, suggests the variant will not cause a significant increase in severe cases. Cases of FLiRT have also been detected in the Vall d'Hebron hospital and in wastewater from several locations, according to Andrés Antón, head of the Vall d'Hebron respiratory virus unit.

Possible impact of the FLiRT variant on infections and the immune evasion capacity of the variant

Roger Paredes, head of infectious diseases at Germans Trias hospital, warns that, although it is early to determine the impact of FLiRT, It is possible that a significant increase in infections will be seen in the coming weeks. “If infections increase, hospitalizations will also increase among people most at risk of suffering complications from Covid,” says Paredes.

FLiRT is not a single variant, but a set of variants derived from the JN.1 variant, dominant since last fall. These variants have acquired mutations that increase their immune evasion capacitySpecifically, they have replaced two amino acids in the S protein of the virus, which improves its contagion capacity.

Mutations in the FLiRT variant, such as the substitution of phenylalanine for leucine and arginine for threonine in protein S, increase their immune evasion capacity. Some versions of FLiRT, such as KP.2, have an additional mutation that improves its ability to bind to human cells, increasing its transmissibility to more than double that of the JN.1 variant, according to virologist Benjamin Murrell of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

These mutations allow the virus to partially evade the body's immune response, even in vaccinated or previously infected individuals. This change in protein structure makes it difficult for antibodies to effectively neutralize the virus, making it easier to spread.

In the presence of the FLiRT variant in Spain, and specifically in Bizkaia, represents a new challenge in the fight against covid. Although health authorities and experts do not foresee a significant increase in serious cases, the high contagion capacity of FLiRT underlines the importance of maintaining prevention and surveillance measures. The continued evolution of the virus and the emergence of new variants highlight the need to adapt quickly and continue research to develop effective strategies against covid.

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