RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — COVID-19 levels are low here in North Carolina right now, but experts are keeping a close eye on some new variants that are becoming more common.

Virologists, including Duke’s Dr. David Montefiori, are working to learn everything they can about several new COVID subvariants and analyze how vaccines will hold up against them.

“Some of them look like they’re a little bit more evasive than BA.5 is, so there might be some reason for concern,” said Montefiori. “But still none of these variants are completely escaping the antibodies and so they’re unlikely to completely escape the vaccines.”

“Chances are the new bivalent vaccine is going to do even better for all of these new variants,” he added.

According to the latest numbers from the CDC, the BA.5 subvariant that caused most of our recent COVID-19 cases, now makes up about half the cases in the United States, followed by BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which combined, total more than 25 percent of cases.

A handful of other subvariants make up the rest.

“They are omicron strains,” explained Dr. David Weber, an infectious disease expert at UNC Health. “We do know that they are rapidly increasing in a number of countries.”

Weber said some monoclonal antibodies may not work against the new variants.

“There is data that these new strains do escape from our monoclonal antibody therapy — certainly Evusheld, which is what we use prophylactically for immunocompromised patients,” he said, adding that some subvariants may also not respond to the monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab.

At this point, says antivirals like Paxlovid still appear to be effective.

With multiple variants circulating around the U.S. and the world, scientists say it’s still not clear which will become most common here or whether we’ll see several strains infecting people at once this winter.

“It seems like every week a different one seems to be leading the pack,” noted Montefiori.