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How the new coronavirus variant was nicknamed “FLiRT”

How the new coronavirus variant was nicknamed “FLiRT”


The FLiRT new coronavirus variant is a new strain that is circulating in the United States, and currently accounts for more than one in four people infected in the United States.

Although the number of infected people and hospitalizations are decreasing, the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to mutate, producing new variants without end.

The latest high-profile ones, KP.2 and KP.1.1, are part of a new subvariant family called . “FLiRT” It was detected in wastewater samples earlier this spring and the percentage of cases is now increasing.

Experts say KP.2 and KP.1.1 may be more contagious and better able to evade prior immunity than previous variants, raising concerns about a possible summer wave. .

The variant also sparked a lot of reactions and jokes on social media. Are we “cheating” with a dangerous new variant? Why is it called FLiRT in the first place?

What are FLiRT COVID-19 variants?

KP.2 and KP.1.1 are spinoffs of the ohmicron subvariant JN.1.11.1, a direct descendant of JN.1, which is the dominant strain during most of the winter, previously reported. reported.

KP.2 and KP.1.1 are similar to JN.1, but they detected additional mutations that appear to give the new strains an advantage over other variants, said an infectious disease physician and public official. said Dr. Albert Ko, professor of hygiene and epidemiology. of Medicine at the Yale School of Public Health, previously told

Last month, KP.2 rapidly overtook JN.1drove The number of new coronavirus infections increased sharply last winter.According to the latest data, KP.2 now accounts for more than 25% of cases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We think these two mutations make KP.2 a better virus in terms of being able to evade some of the immunity that already exists in the population while still maintaining its ability to transmit.” said academic Dr. Andrew Pekosch. Johns Hopkins University previously told

As KP.2 and KP.1.1 gained attention, scientists on social media came up with a catchy new nickname to use in place of letters and numbers: “FLiRT.”

This is different from other informal pseudonyms (Pirola, Eris, Arcturus, Kraken) that seem to fall under Greek mythology or constellation themes.

The name “FLiRT” is Reportedly built in March X, formerly known as Twitter. T. Ryan Gregory, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario. Gregory regularly posts about the evolution of his SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and shares the nicknames of many other popular variants. It's in the back.

Why is it called the FLiRT variant?

Not surprisingly, this new species is not spread by winks, compliments, or other signals of romantic interest or attraction. They have nothing to do with flirting.

The name “FLiRT” is based on the technical name of the variant's spike protein mutation, Pekos said. These two mutations are at position 456 (F for L) and at position 346 (R for T), Pecosh said. According to him, “FL” and “RT” were merged as “FLiRT”. Infectious Disease Society of America.

When a new variant emerges, it is described using a letter-number combination, such as KP.2, JN.1, or HV.1. These letters and numbers refer to the “Pango lineage” of that variant. This is similar to a family tree with lineages descending from the parent lineage. According to the CDC.

A group of closely related viruses is called a lineage, and the direct descendants of each variant are called sublineages. For example, BA.2.75 is a sublineage of BA.2. These strains are named according to the CDC using an alphabetic prefix such as BA or XBB followed by a numerical suffix (such as .1 or .1.1.5).

Think of KP.2 and KP.1.1 as extended branches from the JN.1 branch, which is a direct descendant of BA.2.86 or Pirola.

As viruses continue to mutate and change, these technical names can become long and difficult to remember and say. That's where nicknames come in handy.

In 2021, who We've introduced a simpler system for labeling key variants. New variants of interest and variants of concern are each named after a letter in the Greek alphabet. These include alpha, beta, delta, and micron lineages.

Omicron (B.1.1.529) began circulating in the fall of 2021. Since then, variants of the Omicron virus have mutated and given rise to new subvariants. All COVID-19 strains that have emerged and become dominant since 2022; Descendant of Omicron.

These include Ohmicron BA.2, BA.4, and XBB. Once again, an ungainly combination of letters and numbers is used to differentiate the variants. Nicknames like FLiRT help us understand the “variation soup.” Gregory wrote in a tweet..

Despite their playful names, the new coronavirus variants are no joke. It is important to take precautions against COVID-19 and keep your vaccinations up to date to prevent serious illness and complications.




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