Should we be concerned about the new corona variant BQ.1? Virologist Steven Van Gucht explains

Virologist Marc Van Ranst notes that the infection figures are increasing, while the number of corona patients in hospitals continues to fall for the time being. “Currently, for the first time in a long time, fewer than fifty beds in intensive care are occupied by patients admitted because of corona.”

Based on the current models, a new wave is expected in late October or early November. “It is very likely that the next wave will be caused by a new variant,” says Professor Steven Van Gucht. “But for now, we have to wait and see what that next dominant variant will be.”

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At the moment there is not one clear candidate, several variants are active in different parts of the world. BQ.1 is now increasing faster than the comparable variants, especially in the United Kingdom. “This shows that this variant is better able to evade existing antibodies and therefore has a growth advantage, which makes this a possible candidate.”

Growth advantage

For now, however, BQ.1 is not very common and it is not yet known whether the disease or symptoms are worse. “That is certainly not my expectation”, says Van Gucht. “I expect that the next variant can cause more infections, but is quite similar in terms of disease course.”

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Steven Van Gucht. ©  ISOPIX

“In our country, less than 1 percent of the investigated cases are of the type BQ.1, 4 percent are BA.4 and 94 percent are BA.5. The so-called centaurus variant BA.75, which was tipped this summer as the next important variant, cannot be seen breaking through, that variant was identified in only 1 percent of the investigated cases. That is a good illustration of the fact that you always have to pay attention in the beginning and that it only becomes clear after a few weeks or months whether or not a variant will dominate.”

Best scenery

According to Steven De Gucht, it is therefore still too early to determine whether BQ.1 will break through. “But I think it is a possible candidate. The good news is that this variant remains within the family of omicron. This is the best possible scenario when you see the virus creating new variants, because then you might not get any major changes to the behavior or impact of the virus. I would be more concerned if a new variant were unrelated to omicron and were a completely new branch of the family.”

The virologist emphasizes that we should not worry about the next wave and repeats his call to take the vaccine. “The exact time and extent of the increase in the corona figures in the autumn are still unclear. The vaccination campaign is our most important, primary and currently the only weapon we have now that contact restrictions have been lifted.”


People over 65 are recommended to be vaccinated. “I would also recommend people over 50 who are obese, drink regularly or smoke to get the booster,” says Van Gucht, “just like people with underlying conditions. As well as for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant, this is highly recommended. But the vaccine can also help others against a serious illness and lung covid.”

According to Van Gucht, it is a bonus that the current boosters are produced on the basis of the omicron variant, which is now widely circulating. “It is a stroke of luck that the current vaccines are adapted to omicron, and therefore also to BQ.1.”