Covid-19: What is this new XBB.1.5 variant, the ‘most transmissible’ ever detected?


Covid-19 still seems very present in our daily lives. After the Omicron variant, there is a sub-variant, the XBB.1.5. It is spreading rapidly in the United States and causing concern in Europe. And for good reason, it is by far the most transmissible subvariant of Covid-19. According to the health agencies in charge of monitoring the epidemic, it should break out in France by “a month or two”.

First detected in the United States last October, it now accounts for more than 27 percent of infections in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) variant tracker. A total of 38 countries have reported cases of XBB.1.5, including 82% in the United States, 8% in the United Kingdom and 2% in Denmark, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an assessment on Wednesday quick risk

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The European Union health agency (ECDC) noted that this subvariant currently accounts for only 2.5% of cases in Europe. On Friday, he said it could become the dominant strain in Europe within a month or two, according to his mathematical models that study the growth rate of this subvariant.

The most transmissible yet

XBB.1.5 is very similar to its predecessor, XBB.1, but has an additional mutation in its spike protein, the famous key to entering the virus, Grace Roberts, a virologist at Britain’s University of Leeds, told AFP.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid, said this week that it was the most transmissible subvariant so far. He clearly has one “growth advantage”. The most likely explanation for this advantage is mutation of the spike protein, which adds to a recombination of an already highly transmissible strain, the ECDC said.

On the other hand, “there is no data to suggest that XBB.1.5 is more harmful – in terms of severe disease and death – than previous variants”, said Grace Roberts. The WHO continues to evaluate the data, but for now, XBB.1.5 does not carry any known mutations that increase the severity of the disease, the agency also ruled.

A low risk for the general population

The ECDC said the overall risk level of the subvariant remains low for the general population. However, the risk is “moderate to high” for vulnerable people, such as the elderly or unvaccinated, he added, calling for more testing and vaccinations. “I don’t think we need to take drastic measures at this time”Grace Roberts said, though she felt it was important to continue monitoring her progress.

Source : Le JDD
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