According to global experts, JN.1, the latest Covid-19 variant in Omicron’s lineage, which is re-emerging globally, represents a ‘very serious evolution’ of the Covid virus. JN.1, classified as a variant of interest (VOI) by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its rapid spread, is currently present in approximately 41 countries.
It was first detected in Luxembourg in August. WHO expects JN.1 to increase the burden of respiratory infections in many countries.
The WHO “only called JN.1 a VOI (variant of interest), and that just doesn’t cut it, the growth benefit that this variant has shown. It’s just remarkable”, said Dr. Fortune quoted Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, USA.
JN.1 is a descendant of BA.2.86, the first sample of which was collected on August 25, 2023. Compared with BA.2.86, JN.1 has an additional L455S mutation in the spike protein, making it more transmissible.
“JN.1 represents a ‘very serious evolution of the virus’. And it’s not over,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, said.
“JN.1 is an entirely new variant with numerous mutations that have never been seen before. This is unlike other recent variants, which have only a few mutations from their predecessors,” said Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force. , told IANS.
“Therefore, the disease patterns from the resistance and proliferation capacity of this variant need careful attention,” added Dr. Jayadevan. He explained the immune invasiveness of a variant as the ability of a virus to overcome an existing immune response in an individual.
After major forms of Covid such as alpha, delta and omicron, JN.1 probably represents a new chapter in the evolution of the pandemic, experts claim. According to Ryan Gregory, a biology professor at the University of Guelph in Canada, JN.1 ushered in “a new era”.
The highly transmissible variant “became the pedigree track from which most variants for the foreseeable future have come,” Gregory told Fortune. Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical chief, said that subsequent sub-lineages of the Covid virus “could come from Gen.1”.
“But we’re also seeing something quite different. We’re seeing something like omicrons again,” he said.