As the wave of COVID infections from the highly-contagious BA.5 subvariant finally subsided in late July, new subvariants were already competing for dominance—and the opportunity to drive the next wave of infections.
A little over two months later, epidemiologists are close to naming a winner. In the United Kingdom, infections from a highly mutated subvariant called BQ.1.1 are doubling every week—a rate of growth that far exceeds other leading subvariants. In the U.S., BQ.1.1 is spreading twice as fast as its cousin subvariant BA.2.75.2.
That means BQ.1.1 is very contagious. But that’s not the subvariant’s most alarming quality. What’s most worrying is that it also evades certain antibodies. In fact, BQ.1.1 seems to be the first form of COVID against which antibody therapies—evusheld and bebtelovimab, for instance—don’t work at all.