It spreads at high speed and also infects the vaccinated. What do we know about the new “XPP 1.5” variant of the Corona virus?

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Fears are growing around the world about the spread of a new variant of the Corona virus, which has spread at lightning speed in a few days, especially in the United States, as the number of infected people who have had to be hospitalized increases. The new mutant, which is a mutation of a combination of Omicron mutants, was named XBB 1.5 “XBB 1.5. One of its main characteristics is the speed of its spread and spread. What do we know about this new mutant? The medical community will able to contain it before it turns into a global pandemic?

Its spread at an excessive rate, despite people’s immunity and receipt of vaccination, has begun to worry the world’s medical community. it’s a mutated The new XBB 1.5 is due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strain. And it’s spreading very rapidly in the United States. In about a month, his throughput went from 5% to 40%.

“We haven’t seen this transmission rate since Omicron appeared in 2021. It’s incredible,” says Lawrence Young, a virologist at British Warwick Medical College. That’s the same conclusion reached by the World Health Organization, which described “XPP 1.5” as “the most infectious mutants” on Wednesday.

Mutation from a combination of submutants belonging to Omicron

This strain is a third and even fourth version of the Sar-CoV-2 virus, as it is not just a single variant of Covid-19. “It’s a mutation of a combination of the Omicron mutants,” explains Jonathan Stoy, a virologist and director of research at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

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Unlike strains generated with mutations in the most common viruses, each separately, the new variant generally forms “in the body of an infected person from several variants that fuse with each other,” according to Lawrence Young.

The new mutant has two characteristics, which are its great resistance to the vaccine and also the immunity that may have formed upon infection with Omicron. He also easily and forcefully installs himself on cells in the human body to infect them with disease, according to Young.

This resistance that characterizes it is not new, “it was already present in other sub-mutants of XBB and the new mutation did not change it,” confirms Simon Clarke, researcher of infectious diseases at the University of Reading. However, continues the British researcher, the greatest change occurs above all in position 486 of the genetic code of the virus, where “the spike protein, the key note that allows the virus to open the cell door, converts it to easily bind to its recipient region ”.

This change is what causes the infection to spread widely. “If you have a virus that easily infects cells, you need fewer pathogens to infect another person,” sums up Simon Clark, who points out that there may also be other factors accelerating the spread of the infection (for example, if this mutant causes frequent coughing).

“XPP 1.5” invades the world?

XPP 1.5 has all the ingredients that ensure its global reach. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach expressed his concern about this variant and called for extreme caution against the virus. “I hope we will get through the winter before such a virus spreads to us,” says the German minister, hinting at the potentially heavy burden an outbreak of infection could place on hospitals, which are already crowded with patients with seasonal viruses such as l ‘influence .

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In Britain, the XPP 1.5 trajectory is starting to take a good turn in the US. “There is no justification for the rest of the world to escape this variant,” says Jonathan Stoy.

But the virus may not be spreading at the same rate in all regions of the world. “We have to take into account the immunological characteristics of the population,” says Lawrence Long. In areas of North America where this variant has spread rapidly, there is a possibility that variants that were prevalent in it before the emergence of “XPP 1.5” have produced only weak immunity in those recovering from Covid-19. 19 against the new variant.

Furthermore, “the recall campaign in the United States has been less effective than in other countries, especially in Europe,” says Lawrence Young.

Jonathan Stoy notes that although this new strain more easily escapes vaccine-provided immunity (including boosters against Omicron), “there are more protective barriers” against the outbreak in Europe.

The question remains as to how virulent this virus is. The outbreak of “XBB 1.5” in the United States has to some extent affected the capacity of hospitals in the United States, which have consequently increased by more than 4 percent compared to the previous week, as is the case of intensive care units , which saw a 9% increase in patient numbers. This situation is not surprising, given that “a rapidly spreading virus easily and quickly infects even the people most at risk of infection,” according to Lawrence Young’s explanations.

The regions of the world where this variant has spread do not witness an exceptionally worsening health situation compared to the United States, where “XPP 1.5” is not unique to the “leadership” of the widespread mutants in this country, as there are other strains besides it that are more widespread. But his recent appearance and rapid spread could place him at the top of the mutants that abound in America in the future.

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The World Health Organization has announced that it is specifically monitoring the Omicron submutant, XBB.1.5. He said it has been spotted in 29 countries so far, including Europe and the United States.

Simon Clark says, “Current US data indicate that the new mutant is no more dangerous than the rest of the other Omicron strains.”

And even if it turns out that “XPP 1.5” is no more virulent than the rest of the mutants, this is no reason to deal with it casually. Because a rapidly spreading virus has every opportunity to produce submutants, which could lead to a more ferocious mutant than other viruses. And for Jonathan Stewie, the mutant XBB 1.5 “should serve as a reminder that the pandemic is far from over.”

Sebastien Saibet/ Boualem Ghobchi

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