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New offshoots of the dominant BA.5 subvariant of Omicron known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are gaining ground in the United States as the SARS-Cov-2 virus that triggered the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.

The following describes the new coronavirus subvariants and how they may impact people.

What are BQ.1 and BQ.1.1? BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are among the more than 300 sublineages of the Omicron variant circulating globally, 95% of which are direct descendants of BA.5, according to the World Health Organization.

In early July, BA.5 became the dominant subvariant of the coronavirus circulating in the United States, but in October it started giving way to BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.

Both contain genetic mutations that make it harder for the immune system to recognize and neutralize the virus. That makes them better at infecting people in spite of immunity from vaccinations and prior infections.

Evidence from France, however, where the variants caused a surge in cases, suggests they do not appear to be causing increased rates of hospitalizations and deaths, Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, said on Twitter. Head over to Medscape to read the full story.