COVID-19 Subvariant XBB Is Rapidly Spreading
COVID-19 Subvariant XBB: Over the course of the past few months, Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have been the most common types of COVID-19 in the United States. Recently, however, a new group of COVID subvariants has emerged, with one, in particular, drawing considerable interest. Its potential for dominance is reflected in its name, XBB, which can also be written as “Gryphon.”
Infectious disease expert and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, William Schaffner, M.D., says XBB is making headlines because it spreads rapidly and appears to be able to bypass immunity that patients have built up from having a previous COVID-19 infection or obtaining the vaccination. Although “it’s early days,” Dr. Schaffner says, “we have a lot more to learn.”
What form of COVID is XBB?
According to Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, XBB is one of the “new classes” of Omicron variations that are spreading rapidly right now. He lists the following ones: BQ.1.1, BQ.1, BQ.1.3, BA.2.3.20, and XB B.
Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, explains that XBB is a cross between two strains of the BA.2 type of Omicron. He described the disease’s current spread in Singapore as “efficient.” From its initial detection in India in August 2022, the variant has spread to over 17 other nations, including Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Japan, and the United States, as reported by the Ministry of Health in Singapore.
According to a Chinese pre-print study, XBB is the COVID variation with the strongest potential to elude antibody defenses. According to that study, “the most antibody-evasive strain examined, considerably beyond BA.5 and nearing SARS-CoV-1 level” describes the new Omicron strains, with XBB in particular.
In other words, it is believed that the vaccine and previous exposure to COVID-19 do not provide as much protection against XBB as they did with previous strains of COVID-19. The pre-print study also suggests that antibody medications like Evusheld and bebtelovimab may not be very effective against XBB. Dr. Russo has observed that these mutations are becoming more and more resistant to current protection methods. Dr. Russo believes that while the bivalent booster “is likely going to be protective against severe disease,” it will be “imperfect towards preventing infection.” XBB is a kind of influenza.
However, Dr. Adalja reassures us, saying, “When it comes to evasion of vaccination protection, it is crucial to understand that vaccine protection is not all or none.” Vaccine protection against severe disease persists even in the presence of immune-evasive variations.
Signs of XBB Variant
To date, XBB symptoms have been reported to be comparable to those of COVID-19 in general, with the CDC listing the following as possible side effects:
- Symptoms of illness, such as a high temperature or shivering
- Affecting the respiratory system, causing shortness of breath or other breathing problems
- Lack of Energy
- Sore muscles or other body parts
- Tense Headache
- Sudden loss of sense of smell or flavor
- Coughing, hoarseness, or sore throat
- Nose bleeds or congestion
- Abnormal feelings of nausea and/or vomiting
- Watery stools
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How easily does the XBB subvariant spread?
The Ministry of Health in Singapore reports that the XBB strain of Omicron virus, which is highly contagious like other strains of Omicron, now accounts for 54% of COVID-19 cases in Singapore, up from 22% the previous week.
There is no indication that XBB causes more severe sickness, but the Singaporean Ministry of Health has stated that it is “at least as transmissible as currently circulating forms.”
How soon will the XBB subvariant reach its maximum?
Although XBB has been found in the United States, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that BA.5 and BA.4.6 remain the most common types in the country. We can expect some degree of spread in the United States but unclear if it or some other similar variant such as BQ.1.1 will become dominant,” says Dr. Adalja, adding that other variants have also begun to spread at the same time as BA.4.6 and BA.5.
Dr. Schaffner has expressed “some concern” at the increasing prevalence of XBB and other variants, noting the importance of “watching what occurs over the next several weeks.”
Our goal is to keep all of our stories current, but if you’re interested in the most up-to-date information, we recommend checking out the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and your local public health department.
Moreover, we have no natural defense against new variations
According to Guest, humans do not have a natural resistance against new variants due to the fact that the new version hasn’t existed until very recently. This is due to the fact that the new variant hasn’t been around for very long. In addition, when a new COVID variation emerges, the efficacy of any protection against past COVID infections that may have been developed is uncertain.
If you contracted COVID a few months ago, before XBB became widespread, it is possible that you do not have immunity against it. According to Guest, having immunity to one version does not guarantee that you will have the same level of immunity to another variant. “We don’t know precisely how it manages to avoid our antibodies right now,” said Guest in regard to this new subvariant in particular. Our antibodies are at a loss to understand how the new subvariant is eluding them.
Because variations and subvariants strive to become more infectious as they progress, it is not unreasonable to believe that XBB.1.5 is stickier and has a greater capacity to infect individuals.
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