Arrival of XBB variant won’t trigger new deadly COVID surge, officials hope

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday revealed it was tracking a new COVID-19 variant of concern around the United States known as XBB, which has grown to account for an estimated 3.1% of new infections nationwide. Did.

The strain has the highest prevalence so far in the Northeast, according to officials. Weekly EstimateMore than 5% of infections in the area straddling New Jersey and Maine are linked to XBB in this week’s “Nowcast” of the CDC.

XBB is behind a huge number of infections worldwide. some south asia There is an increasing proportion of viral sequences reported from. In the world and arriving international travelers.

Earlier this month, the CDC announced provisional estimate This suggests that XBB may double approximately every 12 days. This is likely faster than the current pace at which BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants are now dominating the country.

But senior coronavirus officials and experts in the Biden administration said: i don’t think XBB will pose a new threat on the same scale as when the Omicron variant first appeared a year ago.

CDC’s Ian Williams said, “If we’ve seen a spike, we’ve found it’s mostly due to seasonality, people coming home and spending more time with each other, but especially newer people. It wasn’t caused by the emergence of subspecies.” meeting, meeting of the CDC’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Advisor earlier this month.

XBB is one of several new strains that have replaced Omicron’s variant siblings BA.4 and BA.5, which caused a series of cases over the summer. As of this week, the CDC said BA.5 had fallen to less than one-fifth of new infections nationwide, and BA.4 had virtually disappeared.

The strain’s arrival also comes at a time when COVID-19 is relatively flat or slowing in most regions, including the Northeast. hospitalization rate.

About three in four Americans now live in counties considered “low.” COVID-19 community levelis the lowest tier of precaution recommended by officials, according to figures released by the agency on Friday.

“But there’s a lot of concern that a new variant will emerge and start us all over again. So we’re focused on being prepared, thinking about it, and monitoring whether it pops up around the world. We have a lot of work to do and we’re ready,” Williams added.

“recombinant” strains

First named by scientists back in septemberXBB is believed to be a ‘recombinant’ of two different Omicron subvariants BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 that emerged earlier this year. It is the latest in a group of currently dominant stocks, Avoiding major COVID antibody drugs.

“XBB is on the rise, but appears to be less severe than other subspecies,” Derek Smith, director of the University of Cambridge’s Center for Pathogen Evolution, told CBS News in an interview. Moon.

Smith helps head the National Institutes of Health effort For early detection and analysis of variants as they emerge, “Avengers style” A program that spans multiple US federal agencies and outside experts.

“XBB, it caught our attention and was prioritized because it had a significant number of replacements with the current circulating virus, even if the numbers were low. [receptor-binding domain]which means it could be an escape variant,” said Smith.

Scientists at the NIH effort began ordering supplies early on to manufacture mockups of XBB, testing how it escaped immunity in the lab compared to other strains.

The data also suggests that the new COVID booster will improve protection against stocks to at least some extent.

Investigation release It was submitted as a preprint earlier this month by Pfizer and BioNTech and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

However, the company’s scientists also said it was one of the worst incapacitating variants seen from the shot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday at the White House: briefing. Arrival of XBB variant won’t trigger new deadly COVID surge, officials hope

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