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    FLiRT Covid-19 sub-lineage dominant strain found in Maharashtra

    FLiRT Covid-19 sub-lineage dominant strain found in Maharashtra


    The new coronavirus sub-lineage of JN.1.11.1 variant called KP.2, nicknamed FLiRT, is likely to fuel new Covid-19 cases as it is more immune evasive and highly transmissible. With 70 per cent of Covid-19 samples testing positive with the KP.2 sub-lineage during the genomic sequencing, it has become the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in circulation in Maharashtra, said experts.

    As per the experts at INSACOG (India SarsCov2 Genomics Consortium), KP.2 infection was first detected in samples of a patient collected in Pune on February 8 this year and found in samples collected from Thane on February 15. (REPRESENTATIVE PHOTO)

    As per the experts at INSACOG (India SarsCov2 Genomics Consortium), KP.2 infection was first detected in samples of a patient collected in Pune on February 8 this year and found in samples collected from Thane on February 15. Transmission of FLiRT infection increased in seven more districts of Maharashtra by March. Till date, Maharashtra has reported 91 cases of KP.2 infection.

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    “The infection has become dominant in the state with over 70% of samples tested for genome sequencing found to have KP.2 variant. The report has been shared with the central and state health departments,” said a senior doctor on condition of anonymity.

    Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, Maharashtra coordinator for genome sequencing, said, “It can spread fast and infect people who have immunity against past Covid-19 virus infection. This is an important property on the sub-lineage on which the transmissibility of the KP.2 depends. KP.2 is fast replacing the JN.1 variant which was once a dominant strain in circulation. It can fuel the Covid cases in the coming days if people fail to take precautions.”

    Maharashtra has reported 91 cases of KP.2 infection with Pune leading with 51, followed by 20 in Thane, seven in Amravati and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar respectively.

    FLiRT is a group of mutants, including KP1.1 and KP.2, named based on the letters derived from their mutations. FLiRT variants are direct descendants of JN.1. FLiRT has some concerning features, like changes in the spike protein, which play a role in helping SARS-CoV-2 colonise the body and make people sick. Its symptoms are similar to those of earlier variants, including fever, cough, fatigue and digestive issues with a heightened transmission rate.

    Dr Karyakarte, who is also a member of the state Covid-19 task force, said that the KP.2 variant has a higher transmission rate and, like its parent JN.1, is likely to cause a surge in infections. “These infections are expected to spread silently because most people are unlikely to get tested due to the absence of severe symptoms. Due to the mild nature of the infection, the number of hospitalisation is low. However, people in the high-risk category will remain to be vulnerable to the infection,” he said.



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