COVID-19: Can FLiRT variants become next big pandemic?

Cases of KP.2, one of FLiRT variants, have seen an alarming rise in US over the past month

Web Desk
COVID-19: Can FLiRT variants become next big pandemic?
'FLiRT' variants have been dominant forms of COVID-19 circulating globally this year. — AFP/File

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that the "FLiRT" variants of the deadly SARS-CoV-2 virus, which cause the COVID-19 infections, have been the prevailing strains of the virus this year globally.

The term "FLiRT" stands for the locations of the mutations the variants share on the virus's spike protein, the Gulf News reported.

KP.2, one of the FLiRT variants, has become the most commonly circulating variant in the United States over the past month, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the FLiRT variants, including KP.2's "parental" lineage JN.1, have three key mutations on their spike protein that could help them evade antibodies.

Are FLiRT variants more contagious?

Dr Aaron Glatt, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America said he has not seen evidence of an uptick in disease or hospitalisations, based on the data he tracks and experience with his own patients.

"There have been some significant changes in the variants, but I think in recent times it's not been as important, probably because of the immunity many, many people already have" from prior illness and vaccination.

According to CDC data, COVID-19-related hospitalisations have trended downwards in recent weeks.

Additionally, the number of patients in emergency rooms who have tested positive for COVID-19 has been about flat for the past month.