Covid BQ.X: what is new Omicron strain in UK, is it a ‘variant of concern’, are symptoms different?

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BQ.X is currently being monitored in the UK

A number of new Covid variants are currently circulating in the UK, including BQ.X, but what is this variant and is it of concern? Here’s what you need to know.

What is BQ.X and is it a variant of concern?

BQ.X is a Covid Omicron variant currently circulating in the UK. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) explained that from UK data, BQ.X, BA.2.75.2 and BF.7 are currently the most concerning variants and will be prioritised for vaccine effectiveness assessment.

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Although all of the new variants are currently at relatively low individual prevalence in the UK, BQ.X, BA.2.75.X and BF.7 show evidence of a positive growth rate compared to the BA.5 variant.

Variants may also be contributing to the current increase in Covid cases, but due to the age mix of those infected and “the timing of the increase in incidence compared to the variant prevalence”, it is “likely” that other factors are contributing, the UKHSA said.

BQ.X is currently being monitored in the UK BQ.X is currently being monitored in the UK
BQ.X is currently being monitored in the UK | Kim Mogg/NationalWorld

Professor Martin Michaelis said the Omicron subvariant BA.5 is still currently the “dominant” variant of Covid, but the three sub variants BQ.X, BA.2.75.2, and BF.7 seem to have “gained ground”.

He added that although the number of people infected with these three variants is still small, they seem to have a “growth advantage” over BA.5, which means there is a chance that they may replace BA.5.

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Prof Michaelis said these three sub variants also seem to be “better at bypassing pre-existing immunity from vaccination and previous infections than BA.5”.

BQ.X, alongside BA.2.75.2 and BF.7, is currently one of the Covid variants “considered to have the highest potential to cause the next COVID-19 wave,” he added.

“It is likely that they already contribute to the increase in Covid-19 cases that we are detecting at the moment.”

However, he said it is still too early to tell whether one of the three variants will “outcompete the others and take over” and it’s also not yet known whether these variants may cause more severe disease than BA.5.

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It’s also not yet clear whether these variants may be associated with more severe disease than previous Omicron variants.

“The only thing that seems very likely is that Covid will keep evolving and that we will see further waves,” Prof Michaelis added.

What are the current symptoms of Covid?

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE Covid study, recently issued an update on the most common symptoms being logged on the ZOE Covid Study app.

The following 10 symptoms were the most common:

  1. Sore throat
  2. Headache
  3. Cough (no phlegm)
  4. Blocked nose
  5. Runny nose
  6. Cough (with phlegm)
  7. Sneezing
  8. Hoarse voice
  9. Muscle pains and aches
  10. Fatigue
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