(Yicai Global) Dec. 21 -- More than 130 subvariants of the Covid-19 omicron variant have been detected in China in the past three months, according to an official.
BQ.1 and its sublineages were identified in 49 cases from nine provincial-level regions, while XBB's sublineages were detected in 11 cases from three provincial-level regions, Xu Wenbo, head of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference yesterday.
BQ.1 and XBB have become dominant in the United States and some European countries because of their increased transmissibility and ability to evade the immune system, but their potential to cause illness has not risen, he said.
“There is no report pointing to rising rates of severe cases and deaths caused by these two strains,” Xu said. The two omicron subvariants do not command the field in China, he said, where BA.5.2 and BF.7 remain the main strains.
“But the spread advantage of BQ.1 and XBB will gradually increase, likely forming a co-circulation with BA.5.2, BF.7, and over 50 other imported substrains,” Xu added.
Covid-19 has broken the laws of evolution, according to a team led by Cao Yunlong, an associate researcher at Peking University's Biomedical Pioneering Innovation Center. Its mutation from alpha and delta variants to omicron's BA.1, BA.2, and BA.5 sublineages were a clear sequential evolution of a single strain, Cao wrote in an article published on Breath Circles, an online Chinese medical publication focusing on the respiratory field.
But since September, the pattern has been broken, as hundreds of mutant strains have emerged worldwide at the same time, and each of them has growth advantages compared to BA.5, Cao noted, adding that this evolutionary phenomenon is unprecedented.
“This means the herd immunity strategy will have no success in preventing the contraction of new mutant strains,” Cao said. “New mutant strains will dodge the immune system barriers set up by vaccines and previous infections, so many people will get Covid-19 multiple times, just like in Europe and the US.”
People may need ongoing shots for Covid-19 as they do for influenza, Cao pointed out. But while there is only one flu wave each year, Covid will have three to four, he added, noting the need for preparations.
Editors: Liao Shumin, Futura Costaglione