Omicron XBB.1.5 is fast becoming the new dominant Covid-19 subvariant, here are the concerns

Now the United States is dealing with a new X factor. In fact, it is an XBB factor: the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant. XBB.1.5 accounted for about 40.5% of all Covid-19 cases over the past week, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s up from 21.7% the previous week. This week-long jump pushed XBB.1.5 past BQ.1 and the BQ.1.1 sub-variant as the new dominant sub-variant in the US.

This sparked aWowon Twitter from Eric Topol, MD, Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, which I assume would call “Twow”:

As another tweet from Topol indicatedthis new XBB.1.5 was first detected, guess where, in the United States:

XBB.1.5 was first discovered in New York, prompting Lucky Tran, PhD, Walk for Science organizer and science communicator at Columbia University, to recall a new- Yorkers:

As you can see, Tran tweeted: “Since XBB.1.5 was discovered in New York, we should call it the “You do you” variant.” This was in reference to the WTF face mask posters that were displayed in New York City subways in September. These posters showed cartoons of a person with and without a face mask with the words “You do you”. These posters were quickly taken down after people realized they were, uh, how to say, a really bad idea, as I covered for Forbes at the time. Such posts could have further contributed to the lack of use of face masks and other Covid-19 precautions in many parts of New York.

And what can happen when SARS-CoV-2 is allowed to spread unhindered? It propagates, multiplies, mutates and spreads. The more the virus spreads, the more new sub-variants will appear. Asking the XBB.1.5, “Who’s your daddy”, might get an answer like “The Omicron XBB sub-variant”. That’s if the virus had a mouth. XBB.1.5 emerged via mutations of the XBB variant. The XBB variant has already spread to more than 70 countries, such as India and Singapore. The XBB, in turn, probably resulted from a connection between two other earlier Omicron subvariants, the BA.2.10.1 and the BA.2.75. And these kids, that’s what happens when you let the virus continue to spread.

The rapid increase in XBB.1.5 demonstrates that this version of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may have a “growth advantage” over other versions of the virus. While a “growth advantage” might sound great in bed, it’s not when you’re talking about a new version of a respiratory virus. This suggests that XBB.1.5 may be more transmissible than previous versions of SARS-CoV-2. Or it might be more effective to override existing immune protection. Or both.

As a result, there could very well be another Covid-19 surge after the festive season, this time driven by XBB.1.5. Over the past two weeks, many people seem to have shunned Covid-19 precautions as though they were quilted vests or low-cut booties, in other words, old-fashioned. It’s not great when a lot of people are traveling and attending gatherings. It makes you wonder if the ball that falls on New Year’s Eve will have spikes and be Covid-19 coronavirus.

Each time a new SARS-CoV-2 variant and subvariant became dominant, five natural questions emerged. The first is whether people infected with this new version will be more contagious than they were with previous versions? Second, will this new version make people sicker than previous versions? Third, will this new version be able to overcome vaccine-induced and natural immune protection? Four is whether the treatments will be as effective against this new version? And five is the beep?

The answer to the first question is maybe. Or alternatively, maybe.

The answer to the second question is “It doesn’t seem to be the case”, so far. There do not appear to be any differences in the percentages of people who contract very severe Covid-19 after being infected with XBB.1.5 compared to other previous Omicron subvariants. Of course, Covid-19-related hospitalizations have increased in most parts of the country. According to New York Times, the average number of daily Covid-19 hospitalizations increased by 4% to 42,324 over the past two weeks. However, hospitalization rates in areas of the country where XBB.1.5 has already become dominant have not necessarily been higher than where other subvariants are even more dominant.

The answer to the third question is “it looks like that”. Given the F486P mutation of XBB.1.5, the big concern is how much more evasive XBB.1.5 can be. In this case, evasive does not mean that the virus refuses to answer when you ask “Where were you last night?” Rather, XBB.1.5 may be better able to evade antibodies generated by Covid-19 vaccination or previous Covid-19 infections. This could mean that XBB.1.5 might be better able to bypass your immune defenses.

This new escape would also help provide the answer to the fourth question. That is if there were monoclonal antibody treatments available that still work against the circulating strains. This extended set of Omicron waves essentially rendered all those monoclonal antibody treatments that were effective against much older versions of the virus ineffective. Antivirals such as Paxlovid and Remdesivir always seem to work if taken early enough. However, that doesn’t leave many clinician-specific treatments until more monoclonal antibody treatments can be developed.

So what can you do to stay safe from XBB.1.5. Well, there is the same layering of precautions such as high quality face masks, ventilation, air filtration, testing and vaccination. If you haven’t received the bivalent Covid-19 booster yet, it’s a good idea to do so as soon as possible. A research letter published on December 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine described a study that revealed how Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent Covid-19 mRNA boosters generated a significantly better antibody response against the XBB variant than Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 mRNA vaccines. origin. The study did not look specifically at antibody activity against XBB.1.5, but these results suggest that the bivalent will give you better protection against XBB.1.5 than the original versions of the vaccines.

In what has unofficially become the convenience phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be easy to forget that SARS-CoV-2 is still a serious threat. The virus continues to multiply, spread and mutate. And it can be hard to stick with those newer subvariants that have names that look like Wifi passwords. Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD, epidemiologist and head of the COVID Risk Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute, wondered why the CDC hadn’t alerted the public to the spread of XBB.1.5 sooner. in the next tweet:

Ultimately, the big X-factor over the next few months is how many people will end up receiving the bivalent Covid-19 booster and maintaining Covid-19 precautions. If the response isn’t too many, the XBB.1.5 could mark the spot with even more hospitalizations, deaths and other poor Covid-19 outcomes. Politicians and various television, radio and podcast personalities can argue that the Covid-19 pandemic is over. But that only gives this new X-tra sub-variant opportunities to spread.

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