Visual Representation | Credits: FDA

Sudden Uptick in COVID-19 Activity, Experts Expresses Concerns

United States: The principal metrics employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor COVID-19 dynamics have exhibited slight upticks from previously minimal baselines. Notably, the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater has ascended from trivial to low levels over the past week.

A significant portion of this increment in wastewater signals can be attributed to a consistent rise in the western United States, while the southern region experienced a marginal increase, according to the reports by CIDRAP News.

The CDC regards wastewater surveillance as a preliminary indicator. In addition, the agency observed modest increases in two other leading indicators: test positivity rates and emergency department visits for COVID-19. Presently, test positivity rates are most elevated in Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada.

Variant-Driven Upward Trajectory

The modest rise in cases coincides with the increasing prevalence of JN.1 variant derivatives. According to last week’s variant proportion update by the CDC, two subvariants, KP.2 and KP.3, constituted 41.2% of sequenced specimens. Both variants possess the FLiRT mutation (substituting F for L at position 456 and R for T at position 346), potentially enabling them to circumvent prior immunity from past infections or vaccinations, as per CIDRAP.

On June 5, the Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) is slated to convene to deliberate on the specific COVID strains to be incorporated in the 2024-25 vaccine formulations.

Current vaccines are designed to combat the XBB.1.5 variant, yet JN.1 has emerged as the predominant strain. Recently, the World Health Organization’s COVID vaccine advisory panel advocated for a transition to a monovalent vaccine incorporating the JN.1 antigen.

Several nations, including Singapore, have reported an uptick in cases, partially driven by the increasing prevalence of JN.1 variants.

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