FLiRT variant of Covid virus – KP.2

GS Paper III (Science and Technology):

Focus on Developments in Biotechnology: FLiRT variant of Covid : Briefly mention the FLiRT variant as an example of a recent mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. You can explain its key characteristics, such as increased transmissibility and immune evasion.

GS Paper II (International Relations):

Global Health Issues: You could discuss the FLiRT variant in the context of ongoing challenges in the Covid-19 pandemic.  Mention concerns about new variants and the need for continued global cooperation in areas like vaccine development, surveillance, and equitable access to healthcare.

The new coronavirus variant called KP.2 — nicknamed FLiRT — that has been linked to rising cases of Covid-19 in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea, has been in circulation in India since November 2023, genomic surveillance data show.

INSACOG, the country’s genome sequencing consortium, has reported about 250 KP.2 sequences so far.

What is the FLiRT variant of Covid-19 virus?

KP.2 is a descendant of the JN.1 variant of the virus. It is a sub-variant of the Omicron lineage with new mutations.

FLiRT, the nickname of KP.2, is based on the letters representing two immune escape mutations that allow the virus to evade antibodies.

What do the genomic data on KP.2 from India show?

A little more than half of the 250 KP.2 genomes sequenced by INSACOG — 128 sequences — were from Maharashtra. The highest number of KP.2 sequences were found in March.

KP.2 sequences made up 29% of Covid-19 sequences uploaded by India to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the world’s largest repository of these sequences, over the last 60 days.

However, JN.1 continues to be the dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.

Can FLiRT variant of Covid cause severe disease?

FLiRT evades immunity from vaccines and previous infections, characterizing its ability. Its symptoms are similar to those of earlier variants, including fever, cough, fatigue, and digestive issues.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that there are currently no indicators suggesting that KP.2 would cause more severe illness than other strains.

However, FLiRT has a heightened transmission rate and, like its parent JN.1, it is likely to drive a wave of infections.

Additionally, infections are likely to spread silently because most people are unlikely to get themselves tested without severe symptoms.

FLiRT variant of Covid : Sympyoms of infection

This variant, like many of its Omicron predecessors, mainly affects the upper respiratory tract.

It includes fever or chills, cough, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, headache, muscle aches, difficulty in breathing, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, brain fog, feeling less wakeful and aware, and gastro-intestinal symptoms including upset stomach, mild diarrhoea, and vomiting.

Prevention of Infection:

Preventive measures remain the same as those advised since the Covid outbreak began four years ago. Social distancing and the use of well-fitting respirators like N95s or KN95s in indoor public settings protect against all variants of the Covid-19 virus.

Increased air flow and filtration in indoor spaces also help reduce the concentration of virus particles. Vulnerable groups and those living in areas where the infection is in circulation should be especially careful.

Do we need booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines?

Most Covid-19 vaccines in India target the original variant of the virus. So additional shots are unlikely to help.

Extra Information : GISAID:

GISAID was previously known as the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data. It shares information about influenza viruses.


Open Access to Data:

GISAID allows scientists worldwide to access and share genetic sequence data and information about influenza viruses.

Real-Time Surveillance:

By sharing data in real-time, GISAID facilitates global influenza surveillance. This allows scientists to track the emergence and spread of new influenza strains, including those with pandemic potential.

Improved Vaccine Development:

Understanding the genetic makeup of circulating influenza viruses is crucial for developing effective vaccines. GISAID’s data sharing helps researchers design vaccines that target the most prevalent strains.



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