The Omicron variant BQ.1.1 appears to be in a prime position to drive the coming winter wave in Europe.
Bioinformatics scientist and variant watcher Cornelius Roemer has published several updates on BQ.1.1 since we first published details on the variant in this post.
On the 21st September, Cornelius Roemer said that “BQ.1.1 is showing quite some growth, especially in England where the first sample was submitted 9 days ago and now there are already 28 sequences. I hope there is some sort of biased sampling going on. Otherwise this doesn’t look good.”
Today’s updates give further details of the growth advantage of BQ.1.1, which is now above 100% per week.
“2-3 more days of GISAID data have just appeared on @GenSpectrum. This is a worldwide view, but biased by major uploaders i.e. Europe/North America Growth advantage for BQ.1.1 is stably above 100% per week. BA.2.3.20, mostly Asia so far, can possibly compete.”
The latest update shows that, on the 3rd October 2022, that figure of 28 sequences had grown to 200 sequences.
“With 11 days more data, it is becoming quite clear that BQ.1.1 will drive a variant wave in Europe and North America before the end of November Its relative share has kept more than doubling every week It has taken just 19 days to grow 8-fold from 5 sequences to 200 sequences.”
“Some bad news regarding BQ.1.1 is that it escapes all available monoclonal antibody cocktails, even those that are still working against BA.5 Now looks like a pretty good time to get a booster dose if one is eligible. I got mine a week ago.“
A week ago, @TWenseleers estimated a growth advantage of ~14% per day for BQ.1 over BA.5 This may be a slight overestimate. But note this was for BQ.1 not BQ.1.1 which has a few extra % pts Evidence quite strong that BQ.1.1 will have >10%/day advantage.
Alpha had ~7%/day growth advantage
Delta had ~11%/day over Alpha
BA.1 Omicron had ~20-25%/day over Delta
BA.2 had ~11%/day over BA.1
BA.4/5 had ~11%/day over BA.2
Looks like BQ.1.1 is less drastic than Omicron vs Delta but comparable to Delta, BA.2 & BA.4/5 waves
Ed. The growth advantage for BQ.1.1 is roughly similar to Delta, BA.2 and BA.5 at this point in time.
While BQ.1.1 is significantly faster than BA.2.75.2, it could still happen that XBB, BS.1.1 or another BA.2.75* offshoot will be able to keep up with BQ.1.1, but this would not make wave dynamics better, only worse.
Raj Rajnarayanan has posted that the Covid bellwether state of New York is seeing growth in BQ lineages.
Lastly, we have this fantastic diagram by Daniele Focosi showing the convergent evolution that has led to the lineages we have been discussing recently, including BQ.1.1, CA.1, BR.2 and the new XBB variant. Click on the image to expand.