“Arcturus” Covid variant: Does it cause pink eye, and what else to know about the new strain

Health officials say they are tracking a handful of new SARS-CoV-2 strains circulating around the country, including the XBB.1.16 sublineage. That strain has been there Translated by some scholars Called “Arcturus” on social media disappointment of some health authorities.

Scientists say XBB.1.16 is relatively similar to earlier strains that recently dominated the United States. XBB.1.5 variant It sparked the last wave of infections last fall and winter, and doesn’t seem to lead to worse or different symptoms compared to other strains.

“We didn’t observe a dramatic change from that delta to the omicron shift,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dr. Natalie Thornburg said on April 27 Vaccines. Meeting Conducted by the FDA.

Thornburg says XBB.1.16 has only a few mutations in SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein compared to its recent predecessors, fewer than the more than two dozen changes seen when the original Omicron strains overtook other strains before the pandemic.

XBB.1.16 may be on track to overtake another variant called XBB.1.9, which accounts for 12.7% of the virus circulating in the US. Federal officials think so A single vaccine regimen this fall can boost against all of them.

“We continue to see an accumulation of substitutions in the spike protein over time. And this can be described as drift, which happens very slowly,” Thornburg said.

Here’s the latest information we know about XBB.1.16.

How many people are infected with this covid variant?

Weekly Predictions According to CDC estimates released on April 28, XBB.1.16 accounts for up to 11.7% of viruses circulating nationwide. there More than 88,000 cases have been reported nationwide over the past week, but CDC officials have said that at-home testing is significantly reducing cases and that states are not consistently reporting the data.

At the regional level, XBB.1.16 has risen to more than 1 in 10 infections in many parts of the country. It has the largest proportion of cases in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas with an estimated 15.6%.

Among travelers at international airports, testing by the CDC project detected XBB.1.16 in 1 of 5 positive samples collected from flights arriving in early April.

Globally, India — which has seen waves of new infections in recent months — reports the largest share of XBB.1.16 sequences in global virus databases. The strain has been dominant there since February.

Does this strain of COVID cause “pink eye” or other symptoms?

Health authorities around the world, including the World Health Organization, have downplayed claims that XBB.1.16 causes new or worse symptoms compared to other Omicron variants that powered previous waves.

In India, XBB.1.16 increased, WHO reported On April 17 Hospitalization and other measures of disease severity were not worse compared with other circulatory variables.

Also called “pink eye” by some Conjunctivitis – As a new symptom caused by XBB.1.16. But at one o’clock News conference On April 18, WHO officials described it as “a symptom already known as part of COVID”.

Doctors have reported Conjunctivitis is sometimes presented as the only symptom of Covid-19 in patients In early 2020. It also appears before other common symptoms.

“I’m not aware of any major changes in symptomatology for this variant, but we are seeing characteristics associated with increased transmissibility,” WHO’s Dr. Mike Ryan told reporters.

Will this strain of COVID cause a new wave?

The WHO described the growth advantage of the variant as “modest” compared to other strains. Since it was first reported in early January, the variant has steadily increased across the globe.

“What we’re really seeing is some evidence of a sort of putative developmental advantage, immune escape characteristics, so this variant may be spreading more globally and that may be responsible for the increase in incidence,” Ryan said.

Preliminary studies show “little difference” in the ability of antibodies from the vaccine to block XBB.1.16 compared to earlier XBB strains, the United Kingdom said. On April 21. Relative to the previous XBB.1.5 variant, data from animal experiments described On April 17 the WHO found a “comparable” ability to avoid previous infections.

Although XBB.1.16 has been detected across the spectrum of epidemics in India, the exact role of mutations in this variant remains unclear. India saw a “remarkably similar” surge in 2021 at the same time, according to Swiss Variance Trackers. Mentioned As of April 27, it is difficult to ascertain how much of this is a “seasonal effect”.

For now, Covid-19 readings continue to trend downward around the US Hospital admission The virus is nearing some record lows seen in the spring of 2021 and 2022, after seeing renewed surges in the summer two years ago.

“It hasn’t gotten into a proper seasonal pattern yet, but in the last few years we’ve seen a late summer, early fall surge, or a mid-summer, early fall surge and then another surge around the holidays,” Thornburg said.

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