COVID-19: Will the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant, which is growing strongly in the US, prevail in Europe?

COVID-19: Will the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant, which is growing strongly in the US, prevail in Europe?

In less than a month, its share among new Covid cases has fallen from less than 5% Almost half are in the United States. A variant of XBB.1.5, a version of Several members of the large Omicron family, advancing very quickly across the Atlantic. It can replace BQ.1, which has a large majority in Europe and especially in France. Will he get there soon?

This variant, derived from “recombinant” XBB, has a growth advantage of close to 140% over previously circulating lines, both in North America and Europe, reports the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). In a report released Thursday evening. This means that it is spreading much faster than previous variants.

Perhaps this growth feature is explained by its ability to resist immunity more than previous variants, whether due to vaccination or infection. But also by the presence of the S486P mutation in its genome, which could provide it with “a transmissibility advantage, additional immune evasion, or both,” points out ECDC.

The contexts are not necessarily comparable

XBB.1.5 is already in France. Between 30 and 40 cases have already been identified by sequencing, the technique for analyzing the entire virus genome. Because this figure is so low, “it is difficult to estimate whether or not there is a tendency to increase,” notes Justin Scheffer, responsible for monitoring variables at Public Health France.

According to the ECDC, XBB.1.5 will not “necessarily become dominant in Europe, as significant differences in variable circulation with North America have been observed on several occasions during the pandemic”. Vaccination coverage, as well as the history of circulation of variants and the time of successive waves, differ greatly between the United States and France. For these reasons, even if XBB.1.5 checks all the boxes to establish itself in France, its progress may be slowed,” Yannick Simonin, lecturer in virology at the University of Montpellier abounds.

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“The person most likely to win in Europe”

France could also “benefit” from the ninth wave exit carried by the BQ.1 variant (Basically his “little brother” B.1.1), and are undoubtedly more imposing than those in the United States. Problem: There is no solid data yet regarding the protection that BQ.1.1 infections confer against XBB.1.5. Furthermore, “the success of variable introduction may depend largely on possible superpreader events (or super spread) Justin Schaefer says.

The fact remains that “of the myriad variants identified so far, XBB 1.5 is currently the most likely to win in Europe,” says Yannick Simonen. However, because there are so few currently out there, the new pandemic wave it could cause won’t happen “in the next month,” according to the CDC. Whatever happens, the good news is that XBB.1.5 doesn’t look any rougher than its predecessors.

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