June 16, 2024

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The new Arcturus coronavirus, or XBB.1.16, is spreading: what do you know

A new alternative to coronavirus, XBB. 1.16, classified as a ‘monitor variable’ by the World Health Organization. Omicron’s latest offshoot is particularly prevalent in India, where it has led to a spike in infections, and a resurgence in masking mandates in parts of the country.

Here’s what you need to know about the variant called Arcturus, which has been documented in 29 countries so far.

What is Arcturus, the new variant of the coronavirus?

Arcturus It was discovered for the first time in a sample from January and has now been documented in 29 countries, according to the Global Health Organization. It is a variant of the omicron variant, which It appeared in late 2021 It has replaced Delta as the dominant variant around the world.

By late February, the Arcturus strain accounted for 0.21% of cases worldwide. A month later, that percentage had risen to 3.96%, according to WHO figures. in the United States of America, that it It is estimated to be responsible for 7.2 percent of coronavirus infections For the week ending April 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Global Health Organization specific XBB. 1.16 “Variable under surveillance” on March 22nd. This means that the variant has “genetic changes” that could affect its characteristics as a virus, including a possible “growth advantage” over other variants, but the epidemiological impact is not clear. The World Health Organization monitors seven variants, including the BA.2 version of omicron seen in many parts of the United States.

The “control variant” is considered less important than the “variant of interest,” which is expected or known to be more transmissible or virulent, or capable of evading antibodies, according to the World Health Organization. XBB. 1.5 The strain, currently the most widespread worldwide, is described as a variant of interest.

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Does Arcturus’ mutation make it more dangerous?

According to the World Health Organization, Arcturus is similar to the mainstream XBB. 1.5 variant, but has “an additional mutation in the spike protein, which in laboratory studies has been shown to increase infectivity, as well as potentially increased pathogenicity.”

While this may mean that it could spread more quickly, there is no indication yet that it will lead to more serious cases.

“We’ve seen this in the past,” Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia, said in an interview. “You look at a virus and it has mutations that would make it more virulent, but in reality you don’t see it.”

He explains that immunity in the body’s T-cells represents “one of the greatest means of protection,” and yet “we are not seeing much development in the parts of the virus that are actually attacked by T-cells,” This means that the effect of mutations may be limited. “There is no evidence that this is more severe – and perhaps somewhat less severe than previous strains – but it is too early to be sure. This is almost certainly due to immunity.”

“It will probably become the dominant variant for a while in the United States, Europe and most countries around the world, but I don’t see it leading to more severe infections than we’ve seen in recent waves,” he said.

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What is the situation in India? And where was Arcturus reported?

In India, the number of active coronavirus cases has been rising steadily in recent weeks, with Nearly 50,000 registered on Fridayaccording to the country’s Ministry of Health – for 13,509 On March 30th.

The country was devastated by a delta-type infection wave in 2021, which claimed tens of thousands of lives. Cases have risen again recently, prompting some states to Reintroduce mask authorizations. Last week, the federal health minister also asked states to increase genome testing and conduct mock drills in hospitals, According to Reuters news agency.

According to Arcturus, it has already replaced other variants in India WHO report in March. However, Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said in late March, “We haven’t seen a change in severity in individuals or in populations,” though the group “will remain vigilant.”

According to the CoV-Spectrum website, which uses data from the GISAID initiative to track coronavirus variants, XBB. 1.16 was detected in samples sequenced from countries including the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia. the CDC Alternative Tracker It is shown to be circulating at very low levels in more than a dozen states, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and Ohio.

“It seems to be spreading more quickly than any other variant right now, but that’s how it always happens: a new variant comes along, it spreads very quickly for a while, and then it fades away over a period of a few weeks, eventually to be replaced by the next,” Hunter said.

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He added that previous studies have shown that many people benefit from hybrid immunity that comes from a combination of previous infections and vaccination, which should give them better protection against severe disease “for a little longer, maybe a few years” – meaning even if they get Arcturus. or another variable, they are less likely to need hospital treatment.

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