New COVID KP.3 variant climbs to 25%, now highest according to CDC estimates

New KP.3 variant increased to 1 of 4 new COVID-19 cases nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Friday, making it now the dominant strain of the virus nationwide.

KP.3’s rise comes as CDC followed key indicators of the spread of the virus is now starting to increase. Previous years have seen surges of the virus peak around August.

CDC wastewater monitoring data has follow up Virus levels are starting to accelerate in the West. Emergency room visits for COVID-19 have step by step in recent weeks for all ages. COVID-19 infections are likely growing in 30 states and territories, the CDC now estimates.

“Very, very similar” to JN.1

The KP.3 is now estimated to outperform the KP.2 variant, called “FLiRT” strain this reached 22.5% of cases this week. KP.2 had become dominant in the previous weeks, but its growth has now slowed.

The KP.3 and KP.2 variants are “very, very similar” to the JN.1 variant which dominated last winter’s wave of infections.

“When you look at KP.2 and KP.3, they are almost identical to each other with actually a difference between the two,” said Natalie Thornburg, chief laboratory officer of the coronavirus and other division respiratory viruses from the CDC. Wednesday.

Thornburg speaking at Food and Drug Administration meeting meeting debate which strains should be targeted by this fall’s vaccines.

This difference is smaller than previous jumps of the virus, such as when JN.1’s parent – ​​the highly mutated Variant BA.2.86 – first appeared last year.

However, the KP.2 and KP.3 are not the same either. Early data suggests that KP.3 mutations may be more effective at evading immunity.

“The JN.1 and KP.2-like viruses are really very overlapping. And KP.3 is very close, but not absolutely on top,” Thornburg said.

Selection of new vaccines against COVID-19

The increase in KP.3 comes as the FDA announced Friday that it had decided to call for shots this fall to be updated for the JN.1 variant that was dominant earlier this year, effectively denying a new formula intended for the KP.2 variant.

“Yes, we always say we shouldn’t chase strains, but we’re paying an incredibly high price for mRNA vaccines so we can have the latest vaccines,” Peter Marks of the FDA said at the the meeting.

The modern had present data from animal studies suggests that its targeted shot at KP.2 provided similar protection against the latest variants, compared to a shot designed for JN.1. Pfizer’s shot for KP.2 sets off better antibody responses for JN.1 variants, including KP.3.

“If this develops again in the fall, will we regret not being a little closer,” Marks said.

But the FDA ultimately decided not to administer the KP.2 shots, after agency advisers expressed concern that it was not doing a better job of broadening immunity against future strains than JN.1.

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