Home Covid News and Updates Are FLiRT COVID Variants More Infectious? An Overview

Are FLiRT COVID Variants More Infectious? An Overview

by Dr. Shruthi R
Key Points on the FLiRT Variants

The FLiRT COVID variants, including KP.2, have been identified as highly transmissible but not more virulent than previous strains. These variants, predominant in areas like Maharashtra, India, and the US, show typical COVID symptoms and are part of the Omicron lineage.

Recent genomic sequencing in Maharashtra, India, during March and April identified 91 cases of the COVID variant KP.2 across various districts. KP.2 belongs to a group of variants collectively known as FLiRT, which have become predominant in the United States and are raising concerns about their transmissibility compared to other strains.

Key Points on the FLiRT Variants:

  • Geographical Spread in Maharashtra: The KP.2 variant has been reported in multiple locations with Pune recording the highest number at 51 cases, followed by Thane with 20.
  • Transmissibility: According to Dr. Lancelot Pinto, a pulmonologist and epidemiologist, there is no evidence suggesting that FLiRT variants are more virulent than existing ones, although KP.2 is considered highly transmissible.
  • Symptoms: Common symptoms of the FLiRT variants are similar to previous COVID strains, including sore throat, runny nose, congestion, tiredness, fever, headache, muscle pain, and occasionally loss of taste or smell.
  • Variant Composition: FLiRT variants, which include strains like KP.2, KP.3, JN.1.7, JN.1.1, and KP.1.1, are characterized by specific mutations in the spike protein, notably at positions 456, 346, and 572. These variants are part of the Omicron lineage known for high transmissibility and significant immune escape capabilities.
  • Immunity and Protection: According to a report by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, previous infections with JN.1 variants should confer strong protection against FLiRT variants due to minor amino acid differences, which still allow for effective antibody binding.

While the FLiRT variants, particularly KP.2, are noted for their heightened transmissibility, there is no current evidence suggesting an increase in virulence. Health authorities continue to monitor these variants closely due to their rapid spread and potential implications for public health strategies.

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