January 31, 2023

MUI Daily News

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Covid-19: Will the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant that is growing strongly in the US prevail in Europe?

Within a month, its share of new Covid cases had dropped from less than 5%. Almost half in the US. XBB.1.5 variant, one Many members of the large omicron family, is making rapid progress across the Atlantic. It could replace BQ.1, which has a large majority in Europe and especially in France. Will he be there soon?

This variant, derived from “recombinant” XBB, has a 140% growth advantage over lines previously circulating in North America or Europe, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). In a statement released Thursday evening. It spreads much faster than the previous types.

This growth advantage may be explained by the ability to resist the immune system over earlier variants due to vaccination or infections. But because of its S486P mutation in the gene, it could provide “a proliferative advantage, or additional immune evasion, or both,” the ECDC points out.

No need to compare contexts

XBB.1.5 is already available in France. 30 to 40 cases have already been identified through sophisticated sequencing that analyzes the entire genome of the virus. Because the number is so low, “it is difficult to assess whether there is an increasing trend or not,” notes Justine Schaffer, in charge of variation monitoring at Public Health France.

According to the ECDC, XBB.1.5 “does not necessarily predominate in Europe, as large differences in variant circulation have been observed in many cases with North America during epidemics”. “Vaccine coverage, but also the cyclical history of variants and the temporality of subsequent waves, differ greatly between the United States and France. For these reasons, even if XBB.1.5 ticks all the boxes to establish itself in France, its progress may slow,” says Yannick Simonin, lecturer in virology at the University of Montpellier.

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“Most likely to win in Europe”

France can also “benefit” from the breakout from the 9th wave carried out by the BQ.1 variation (BQ.1).Basically its “little brother” B.1.1), undoubtedly more imposing than it is in America. Problem: There are still no definitive data on the protection afforded by BQ.1.1 infection against XBB.1.5. Also, “the success of the introduction of a variant depends on potential superbreeder events (or superspreaders) ” says Justin Schaefer.

The truth is, “of the countless variants identified so far, XBB 1.5 currently has the greatest potential for success in Europe,” says Yannick Simonin. However, since there are fewer of them now, a new wave of infections that it could cause will not take place “in the coming months”, the ECDC indicates. Whatever happens, the good news is that XBB.1.5 doesn’t look any harsher than before.