New study led by Boston scientists finds latest COVID-19 variant is less of a threat than feared

“The combination of the large number of mutations and that it seemed to have emerged in many countries around the world at the same time raised the specter that it could be a variant that causes substantial concern,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “That’s why many research groups throughout the world have been trying to generate as much info as quickly as they could about it.”

In a preprint paper, a team led by Barouch reported that people’s immune systems were able to fight off BA.2.86 as well as, if not better than, other circulating variants.

The Beth Israel study also found that the immune response is robust against all variants — including BA.2.86 — after exposure to an XBB infection, which would likely include anyone who contracted COVID-19 since December 2022. That’s particularly good news for the upcoming booster, which is set to be released mid-September and was formulated based on XBB.1.5.

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