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New COVID-19 Variant Alert! KP.2 Can Bypass Your Immunity—How You Can Protect Yourself, Learn Everything

A new COVID-19 Variant has arrived in India and is known as KP.2 and it surfaced first in the beginning of January this year. The new COVID-19 variant, KP.2 is rising across the globe and nearly 100 COVID-19 cases have been reported across India.

The mutated COVID-19 Variant has been designated as FLiRT variant KP.2 has been reported in the state of Maharashtra.  91 cases Omicron subvariant KP.2, surpassing the JN.1 variant has been detected in Maharashtra and the highest number has been detected in Pune (51 cases). Other cases have also been detected in other cities.

The COVID-19 Variant classified as FLiRT variants consist of KP.1.1 and KP.2 strains. Japanese researchers have been able to identify unique substitutions in the S protein of KP.2 variant. Though the cases of the subvariant have been detected across the State there has not been any increase in the number of patients who have been hospitalized. On Wednesday the China’s Health authorities confirmed that the new variant is unlikely to trigger a new infection wave in the country. Dr Rahul Kendre, Lung transplant Physician and Interventional Pulmonologist, DPU Super Specialty Hospital, Pimpri, Pune revealed that the new variant of COVID is not a single mutant but a group of mutants, collectively named FLiRT.

Dr Rahul Kendre said, “The KP.2 (JN. variant is a descendant of JN.1 bearing both S:R346T and S:F456L; KP.2 has three substitutions in the S protein including the two above and additional one substitution in non-S protein compared with JN.1 KP.2 is said to be much better at evading immunity and is slightly more infectious than JN.1 variant,”

Dr. Rajesh Karyakarte, who is the genome sequencing coordinator for Maharashtra has said that there has been a surge in cases where no significant increase in hospitalization has been observed. The surge in the cases in Maharashtra averaging around 250 detections is probably a result of the transmission of the KP.2 variant, which originated from JN.1, the prevalent Covid strain at the end of 2023.

As reported earlier Pune has detected 50 cases of the new variant, Thane reported 20 cases while the rest have been detected in Amravati and Aurangabad (7), Solapur (2) and one case each in Ahmednagar, Nashik, Latur, and Sangli. Mumbai has not reported any case of the new variant.

The latest variant of COVID-19 collectively known as “FLiRT’ has two variants KP.1.1 and KP.2 strains and the names have been designated upon the specific mutations they possess. One strain contains mutations represented by the letters “F’ and “L’, while the other strain features mutations denoted by the letters “R’ and “T’.

Features of KP.2 variant

The FliRT variants have been decoded by Japanese scientists and it is revealed that the KP.2 variant originated from JN.1, has three unique substitutions in the S protein- S:R346T, S:F456L, and another substitution in a non-S protein. These alterations have led to major changes in the properties of the virus strain and the most important has been a change in the reproduction rate of KP.2 when compared to its precursor, JN.1.

The reproduction rate of the KP.2 strain 1.26-times higher than that of JN.1 in many western countries. However despite a faster rate of reproduction KP.2 has significantly lower infectivity compared to JN.1, with a 10.5-fold difference.

Features of KP.1.1. Variant

The KP.1.1. Variant is not as widespread as the KP.2 variant of COVID-19. It is also a FLiRT variant with the same tweak in the protein placements. Figures released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that KP.2 is responsible for 28% of COVID cases in the United States, whereas KP.1.1 cases only account for 7.1% of all cases. The CDC has also revealed that

The KP.2 variant of COVID-19 is spreading faster than the KP.1.1 variant, which is also a FLiRT variant. The latest data from the CDC shows that JN.1, JN.1.7, JN.1.16, and JN.1.13.1 are currently spreading extensively across the United States.

Is The COVID -19 Vaccine Effective on FLiRT variants?

As per experts, persons who were infected by the JN.1 variant of COVID-19 before can still get infected by the KP.2 variant, especially if it has been a long time since their last infection.

The latest vaccines which specifically focus on the XBB.1.5 variant may prove to be ineffective against the KP.2 because of the significant variances between JN.1 and its offspring. A Japanese research which has not been peer reviewed reveals that KP.2 could be more efficient in infecting individuals who have been vaccinated with the latest COVID vaccine.

However Doctors contend that the vaccines will provide some degree of protection from severe illness. However there are no indications that the KP.2 leads to more severe illness than other strains. However, as with the case of COVID-19 specific groups like individuals aged 65 and above, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems are still more susceptible to severe complications. Geriatric persons who have got a shot of the new vaccine are recommended to go for an extra shot after a minimum of four months.

Symptoms of KP.2 and JN.1 variants

The symptoms of KP.2 and JN.1 which make upto 16% is not much different of the other variants. Symptoms include sore throat, a running nose, cough, wheezing, headache and body aches, fever, nasal congestion, general debility and in extreme cases difficulty in breathing. However as compared to other variants there were lesser instances of loss of taste and smell.  There can be occasional cases of gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Persons who had COVID in the past when infected by the new strain have milder symptoms as compared to their   earlier infection.

Public Precautionary measures

All the precautionary measures which were employed during the pandemic must be maintained. It includes-

  • Wear masks in crowded places.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated and dusty places
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Clean or swipe with a sanitizer frequently touched surfaces
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Follow local guidelines
  • Encourage community vaccination drives

Prevention is better than cure as the old adage goes, taking preventive measures will help to contain any epidemic and it is true for the latest variant of COVID also. Following the practices mentioned above will reduce the risks of contracting and spreading the virus and lessen the impact of the pandemic.

Manoj Nair

Manoj Nair: With a decade of news writing across various media platforms, Manoj is a seasoned professional. His dual role as an English teacher underscores his command over communication. He adeptly covers Politics, Technology, Crypto, and more, reflecting a broad and insightful perspective that engages and informs diverse audiences.

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