New Delhi: A study conducted by researchers from The University of Tokyo has unveiled alarming characteristics of the JN.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, indicating not only heightened transmissibility but also resistance to immunity. Published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, the findings highlight the urgent necessity for global strategies to counter its threat to public health.
The emergence of the JN.1 variant has triggered widespread concern due to its distinctive genetic makeup and increased infectivity. With over 30 spike protein mutations, including the concerning Leu455Ser mutation known for immune evasion, JN.1 poses a significant challenge to existing preventative measures.
Utilising genomic surveillance data from France, the UK, and Spain, the researchers uncovered novel insights into the virological properties of JN.1. Their analysis revealed that the reproductive number of JN.1 surpassed that of other variants in the studied countries, indicating its potential to become the dominant lineage globally.
By November 2023, JN.1 had already surpassed the HK.3 variant in both France and Spain, signifying a notable shift in the landscape of SARS-CoV-2 variants. Notably, JN.1 not only spreads rapidly but also exhibits resistance to immunity, posing a significant challenge to public health efforts.
While initial experiments on rodent models demonstrated effective neutralisation of both BA.2.86 and JN.1 variants, breakthrough infections in humans revealed JN.1’s resilience to neutralisation compared to BA.2.86. Of particular concern is JN.1’s strong resistance to the XBB.1.5 vaccine, making it one of the most immune-evading variants identified to date.
Professor Kei Sato from The University of Tokyo emphasised the importance of understanding the risks associated with the SARS-CoV-2 JN.1 variant, including its potential to precipitate epidemic surges worldwide. The study underscores the critical need for ongoing surveillance and comprehension of the evolving landscape of SARS-CoV-2 variants to inform effective public health responses.