Corona subline XBB.1.5 to spread in Europe

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Experts say that the highly contagious XBB.1.5 subline of the Corona variant Omikron could spread to Europe in the coming weeks and months. “One can say with some prognostic certainty that the variant will become the dominant variant in our country as well,” said German epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb.

XBB.1.5 has rapidly increased in frequency in the northeastern U.S. and has dominated infection activity there since mid-December, said Richard Neher, head of the Evolution of Viruses and Bacteria research group at the University of Basel Biozentrum. Outside the northeastern U.S., the variant is even less common, but the proportion is increasing, he said.

The subline is more easily transmissible than any previously known variants, Corona specialist Maria van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday. According to Neher, there has been little information on the severity of illnesses. The expert noted that cases and hospitalizations have increased across the U.S., not just in regions where XBB.1.5 is prevalent. He said this is at least the first indication that the severity is not significantly different from other currently circulating variants.

“XBB.1.5 is hitting a rebound in immunity in people whose vaccination or infection happened some time ago,” explained Zeeb, an expert from Bremen. “First in the U.S. and then subsequently here in Germany.” However, he said the number of detections of XBB.1.5 in Germany is still deficient. “There is no need to think about new measures yet.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is questioning the efficacy of the Covid drug Evusheld, made by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, for the XBB.1.5 subvariant. The agency is awaiting further data to assess how Evusheld works against the variant. However, the FDA assumes that the antibody-drug does not neutralize the subvariant. The new XBB.1.5 variant is currently spreading rapidly in the United States.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) had already expressed concern about the new coronavirus variant. It said that the variant discovered in October is more easily transmissible than any previously known variants. According to available genetic analyses of the virus, it is spreading primarily in the United States and Europe and has already been detected in 29 countries. It is a subset of the Omicron variant that has been circulating since late 2021. A risk analysis is underway and will be published shortly.

  • source: APA/picture: pixabay.com
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