Covid-19 under a microscope


Allow me to take you back to the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Alpha, and Delta were the primary variants.

And then Omicron stumbled in, and unlike the others, never left.

Unlike the others, who had viciously ensnared others to their deaths, Omicron was more akin to a hard cold, or the flu. Whilst it shared flagship symptoms like parosmia (loss of smell/taste) and other respiratory symptoms, they resulted in less hospitalizations. In addition, we were going stir crazy and had started to unlock the lockdown. 

And Omicron, unlike the others, was a rapidly evolving virus, one variant one second and another the next. The rapid mutations in the epitopes (the spike protein that the immune system uses to distinguish it from other viruses) made vaccines, which are designed to emulate the epitopes so the body can recognize it (hence the potential fever- your body is learning the epitope’s shape so it can catch the real thing faster), next to impossible to settle on. Trying to get a working vaccine for it was like trying to hold a tiny fish in the rain- it just kept slipping away. 

And now again, descendants of Omicron are dominant again.

HV.1 is a descendant of Eris (EG.5) but isn’t really that different from Eris. Vaccines that are designed to target XBB (another offshoot) still work on both of them. HV.1 is only dominant for minor mutations, as vaccines still work.

The real worry is BA.2.86, which has been determined to evade the immune system. It, in comparison to say, EG.5.1 or XBB.1.5, resulted in a lower concentration of neutralizing antibodies, meaning one infected would be infected for longer.

Its descendant, JN.1 might be even better at it. It can be transmitted at low levels due to its highly mutated spike protein, and still evades the humoral response more effectively than its predecessor.

I, for one, think that Omicron isn’t going away. It mutates too quickly to truly be caught. But I think a monovalent vaccine is possible per each set of dominant strains. And to that, I mean it will likely become another vaccine to get annually in the fall.