FLiRT Variants: What You Need to Know About the Latest COVID-19 Strains

An expert suggests that a group of variants is associated with recent COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and U.K. The recurring increase in cases portrays COVID-19 as a cyclical disease. Implementing universal precautions would particularly assist in safeguarding the vulnerable population.

The cycle of COVID-19 continues with the emergence of new variants, KP.2 and KP1.1, also known as ‘FLiRT’ variants. These are offshoots of the Omicron JN.1 variant that proliferated globally during last winter. The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) links these downstream variants with recent cases and a minor surge in hospitalizations in the U.S.

There’s been a significant increase in FLiRT cases in the U.K., South Korea, and New Zealand, reigniting concerns about a potential new wave of COVID-19. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has identified 238 cases of the KP.2 variant and 30 cases of the KP1.1 variant in circulation in India, as of May 6.



Reports indicate that symptoms of the FLiRT variant can include a sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, fatigue, headaches, body aches, fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and a potential loss of taste and smell.

The KP.2 and KP 1.1 variants have new mutations that make them more contagious than previous Omicron variants. Symptoms such as fever, cough, and fatigue remain consistent with prior versions. However, their heightened transmissibility calls for heightened vigilance,” explains Dr. Sushila Kataria, Senior Director of Internal Medicine at Medanta, Gurugram.

The severity of these symptoms largely depends on a person’s existing health conditions and their current level of immunity.


New COVID-19 variants, KP.2 and KP1.1, also known as ‘FLiRT’ variants, are causing increased concern due to their higher transmissibility. The severity of symptoms, which are similar to previous variants, depends on an individual’s existing health conditions and immunity level. Experts urge for heightened vigilance in response to these variants  

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