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Jan 2024

All you need to know about the new COVID-19 JN.1 strain

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Jan 27, 2024

In recent days, a new variant of COVID-19, identified as JN.1, has caused an increase in the number of COVID cases in India. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testify that the number of cases of the new strain of coronavirus will increase during the colder season. Although there is no evidence to support that the new strain causes more severe respiratory illness, as per the CDC, the latest mutation is more transmissible and is more capable of invading the immune system.

What is the COVID JN.1 variant?

The JN.1 variant is the latest mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 infection. This mutation is considered a lineage of the BA.2.86 subvariant, which is a descendant of the Omicron variant. Although the omicron variant has several lineages, the prime strain is no longer in circulation.

Indifferent to the other variants, the JN.1 variant has gone through changes in the genetic code, especially in its spike protein region. This latest mutation was primarily identified in the United States in September.

Since then, this variant has gotten attention for its possible impact on the pandemic in India and other countries. On account of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this variant as a “variant of concern.”

Detection and spread of the JN.1 variant in India?

In India, the first case of the JN.1 variant was identified in Kerala at the time of routine surveillance and genome sequencing executed by INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium). This routine surveillance observes people with influenza and severe respiratory illnesses, making allowance for early detection and monitoring.

What are the symptoms of the JN.1 variant?

According to the World Health Organization, people infected with the JN.1 variant of the coronavirus may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The symptoms of this variant are similar to the symptoms of the previous variants of the SARS-CoV virus.

If you are infected with this virus, then you may experience fever, fatigue, headache, congestion, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, breathing problems, loss of smell, and loose motion. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the individual's immunity from immunization and previous infection.

How lethal is the JN.1 variant?

Although there is not enough evidence to specify anything conclusively, this variant has not shown more severe respiratory illness than the infection from the previous strains. However, this variant spreads faster and has the capability to infect people who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID infection.

How is the JN.1 variant different from the other variants?

The main difference between the BA.2.86 variant and JN.1 is that the second-mentioned variant has one mutation in the spike protein. This single change may or may not reform any characterization of the virus. However, some studies have found that the single mutation in the spike protein may support better immune evasion.

If you are experiencing symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, especially if you are living in the area where JN.1 cases have been reported, then consult with your doctor as soon as possible. Although this variant may not pose too much risk, you should take necessary steps if the symptoms get severe. The diagnostic method for this variant is similar to the other variants, doctors suggest RT-PCR or rapid antigen tests to diagnose a COVID-19 infection.