Could Merck’s COVID Pill Create New, More Evasive COVID-19 Variants?

According to an analysis by Eric Topol, executive vice president of the Research Department of Molecular Medicine at the Scripps Institute, XBB.1.5 has mutations that lead to immune escape and possesses a distinct growth advantage against the previous dominant omicron variant, BQ.1. More great news includes a study published in Cell that shows all of the currently available monoclonal antibodies, including Evusheld, are rendered useless by the BQ and XBB lineages. Evusheld was used in immunocompromised patients to prevent infection.

The paper also notes that researchers have no idea why the new variants skirt the current immune response:

Lastly, we found that the spikes of BQ and XBB subvariants have similar binding affinities to hACE2 as the spikes of their predecessors (Figure 5), suggesting that the recently observed growth advantage for these novel subvariants is likely due to some other factors. Foremost may be their extreme antibody evasion properties, especially considering the extensive herd immunity built up in the population over the last three years from infections and vaccinations.

The pandemic response is not going well. Three years in, we still have a rapidly evolving virus that defeats everything we throw at it. There is also an increasing body of research indicating that repeated mRNA vaccines may not help and could even hurt. A recent Wall Street Journal article posits that vaccines may be causing continued variant development.- READ MORE

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