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Home » New COVID-19 variant — JN.1, should we worry?

New COVID-19 variant — JN.1, should we worry?


There’s a new COVID-19 variant that is just showing up across the world. The variant, JN.1, has not spread widely yet, but it has some features that may make it dangerous.

I write about these new variants not to cause fear and panic, but to inform the reader of these variants so that they can be best prepared for the headlines that may appear shortly. Again, the JN.1 variant has some characteristics that could make it spread widely and cause harm. It is being closely monitored by various public health agencies, so they will sound the alarm if necessary.

Let’s take a quick look at this variant and if we should be concerned.

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The JN.1 COVID variant

The BA.2.86 variant, also called “Pirola,” an Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 never took off in the USA even though the variant had over 30 new mutations which could have given it a growth advantage over other variants.

The JN.1 variant is a descendant of BA.2.86. However, this variant has an additional mutation on the spike protein which may make it more able to evade vaccine or “natural” immunity to COVID-19. In addition, the mutation may make it resistant to monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.

The JN.1 variant was detected in the United States in September and has also been identified in 11 other countries, the CDC said. It added that nearly all viruses circulating in the United States now are part of the XBB family and that JN.1 makes up less than 0.1% of SARS-CoV-2 viruses. The variant has started showing up in a significant number of samples from patients in France, the UK, and Portugal.

At the time of writing this article, there is no evidence that JN.1 is going to become a dominant variant in the USA or elsewhere. But right now, we do not have enough data to completely dismiss it.

COVID-19 vaccines and JN.1 variant

According to the CDC, available COVID vaccines are effective against the BA.2.86 variant, so they will probably be effective against the JN.1 variant which only has one new mutation. And research shows that the vaccines prevent severe cases of COVID-19, reducing the risk of hospitalization.

COVID-19 treatments, like Paxlovid, will probably still be effective because the drug is agnostic to mutations on the spike protein. In other words, it attacks the virus irrespective of mutations that occur.

Summary

The CDC gives some good advice about COVID-19 and its variants:

For as long as we have COVID-19, we’ll have new variants. Nearly all represent relatively small changes compared with previous variants. CDC and other agencies monitor for impacts of new variants on vaccines, tests, and treatments, and will alert the public quickly if anything concerning is detected. Most of the time, new variants make little to no impact.

Regardless of the variant, all SARS-CoV-2 viruses spread the same way. So it’s important to protect yourself and others by staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, improving ventilation and staying home when you’re sick.

So right now, the new JN.1 variant bears watching, but if you’ve been vaccinated and protect yourself with other means, you probably don’t have to worry. But stay tuned — if this variant or another gains a particularly dangerous mutation, we might start to worry.

Michael Simpson

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