In the ever-evolving landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new phase is emerging. Gone are the days of a few major variants driving surges and waves. Now, we are faced with an ongoing crisis led by hundreds of different sub-lineages and recombinant sub-lineages of the BA.2.86 and JN.1 variants. These variants are rapidly evolving and spawning unique mutations at an unprecedented rate, posing new challenges in our fight against the virus.
One of these lesser-known variants is JN.2.5, which is driving disease severity and hospitalizations in certain parts of the world. With very little news coverage or mention online, many are unaware of its existence. The JN.2.5 variant, a spawn of JN.2, was first identified in Canada in mid-December 2023. While it may not be the predominant variant, its numbers have gradually grown in Canada, with most cases of hospitalizations and deaths likely caused by this particular sub-lineage. In Brazil, four cases of hospitalized patients were found to have the JN.2.5 variant, with one patient tragically losing their life. This serves as an example of the numerous new variants and sub-lineages that will wreak havoc in certain areas for a period of time before being replaced by newer variants.
The sheer number of sub-lineages and spawns of the BA.2.86 and JN.1 variants is staggering. On GISAID, there are over 3000 different spawns of JN.1 and over 400 different spawns of BA.2.86. Keeping track of these sub-lineages has become a challenge, especially as genomic surveillance in many countries has been reduced or stopped. This means that the data published by variant hunters may not be accurate anymore, and the focus seems to have shifted to gaining fame and media coverage rather than the important work they once did.
It is crucial to move away from solely focusing on variants with the highest number of sequences and predominance. The dynamics of the COVID-19 crisis are changing, and we need to adapt our approach accordingly. Thailand Medical News will continue to provide updates on the various spawns of BA.2.86 and JN.1 that are causing concern. With the ongoing evolution of these variants, it is essential to stay informed and prepared for the challenges they may bring.