‘FLiRT’ COVID-19 subvariant: 5 things you need to know

Another Covid-19 variant is making news across the world. Two new variants of the Omicron lineage, KP.2 and KP.11, collectively known as FLiRT are spreading in the United States. The downstream variants are linked to new cases and a small surge in hospitalisation in the US according to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). Cases were also reported in the United Kingdom, South Korea and New Zealand renewing fears of a fresh Covid-19 wave. 

The Indian SARS CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a multi-laboratory network to monitor genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2, has detected 238 cases of KP.2 and 30 cases of KP1.1 circulating in India. There are a few things you should know about FLiRT:

1. Which is more dominant?

KP.2 is said to be the dominant one. The KP.2 represents 28 per cent of COVID-19 infection in the US, up from just 6 per cent in mid-April, according to the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. KP.2 became dominant by the end of April, which means it accounts for the largest share of the new case, outspacing the JN.1 variant, which took over in the winter.

2. Can they evade immunity?

 The new variants are called FLiRT because of the changes in their genetic mutation at positions 456 and 346. They may be able to evade the immune system, due to trans substitution of amino acid between two spike proteins.

3. What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of the new variant are similar to the omicron subvariants. It mainly affects the upper respiratory tracts and includes sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, fever, headache and loss of taste and smell.

4. How does the new variant transmit?

According to the IDSA, this variant spreads by the person’s respiratory droplets to others, by touching infected surfaces like kitchen countertops, furniture and elevator buttons. This variant is easily transmitted by respiratory droplets, which puts everyone at risk, especially those who are unvaccinated and have a weak immune system.

5. How to stay safe?

The preventive measures are similar to those of Covid-19 which includes practising good hygiene by washing hands frequently with soap and water, wearing masks in crowded places, and maintaining physical distance from others.