Omicron XBB.1.5 variant is on the rise

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The Omicron variant XBB.1.5 has spread in Austria within a few weeks. Hardly any other country records so many new Corona infections.

Starting with the much-discussed mask obligation in Vienna’s public transport system on February 28, 2023, Austria’s last coronavirus measures are falling by summer.

The Omicron variant XBB.1.5 now accounts for about 60 percent of Corona infections in Austria, as molecular biologist Ulrich Elling wrote on Twitter. This is an absolute first, as no recombinant line managed this before XBB.1.5. At first glance, this is not reflected in the PCR test figures. After all, they are consistently around 6,000 new infections per day.

But Elling warns, “The situation is quite different in quantitative wastewater monitoring.” The researcher from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and his team are responsible for sequencing monitoring throughout Austria.

According to the report, the detected SARS-CoV-2 currently appears close to last year’s levels. In March 2022, the omicron variant BA.2 caused up to 60,000 new infections daily. “The risk of infection is, therefore, currently very high, and hospitalizations are also increasing,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), XBB.1.5 is the “most infectious subvariant discovered to date.” The variant has mutation 486 in the spike protein, which allows it to bind better to the ACE2 receptor and thus enter the host cell.

While there is no evidence that XBB.1.5 causes more severe disease than other viral variants, the number of infected people in hospitals at the beginning of last week jumped. While there were 1,168 patients in normal wards and 55 in intensive care units on Monday, 1,304 people were reported in normal wards, and 66 needed intensive care by Tuesday.

According to an analysis by the Robert Koch Institute, Austria ranks second in the world among countries with the newest Corona infections in the past week, with a 7-day incidence of 390 on February 23, 2023 (and 425.2 on February 26). Minimally more were reported only by the Chinese island nation of Taiwan.

  • source: heute.at/picture: pixabay.com
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