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Business News/ News / Next big thing: New Covid variant even worse than Omicron BF.7. Expert explains how

Even as Omicron BF.7 variant continues to trigger huge infection surges, experts continue to predict that we are likely to see more Covid variants in the future. Virologist Eric Feigl Ding said that there is a new recombinant strain XBB15 in the scene, which is likely to become the ‘next big thing’. Here is all you need to know about the variant.

What is XBB15?

XBB15–a new recombinant strain—is both more immune evasive & better at infecting than BQ & XBB variants.

Unreleased data show, the ‘super variant’, surged to 40% in the US and is now causing hospitalization surges in NY/NE.

“Multiple models show XBB15 is much worse in transmission R-value and infection rate than previous variants — faster by LEAPS and BOUNDS," the expert said

As per the data, XBB15 was 108% faster than the previous BQ1 variant. But with more data, XBB15 has further accelerated to now being 120% faster.

The expert also cited that the variant was not reported last week or the week before that. He also hinted that the US CDC having hiding data for a pretty long time, even though the variant has been causing a massive surge for the last couple of months.

Worse than the previously reported…

The expert mentioned that he had previously warned about XBB from Singapore. But people need to realize XBB15 is likely an American-originated recombination variant that is 96% faster (worse) than old XBB. The XBB15 popped up in the New York area in October and has been causing trouble since.

Not a typical Omicron…

The expert opined New York has been suffering the largest COVID-19 hospitalization in almost a year. And it’s not coming down quickly like in recent waves of Omicron waves. That’s because XBB15 is not your typical Omicron - it’s a special recombination mixture variant that is further mutated.

Wastewater coronavirus concentrations are now the second highest of any wave— the highest since the initial Omicron wave, especially in the Northeast US. And it’s still climbing, he added.

The key factors that differentiate XBB15 from other omicron variants

One of the most immunity-evasive variants to date

One of the best variants for entering and invading human cells

Appears to spread much faster than old XBB or BQ

Causes hospitalizations wherever it’s dominant.

Will vaccines work?

Answering this, the expert said, many people asking if the older Wuhan 1.0 or Bivalent Omicron vaccines will still work.

I say that the bivalent BA5 (used in the US) & bivalent BA1 (used in the UK) likely have some efficacy. But unclear how much because XBB15 is a special recombination of BA2 strains—don’t know.

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Sanchari Ghosh
Sanchari Ghosh is a Chief Content Producer with LiveMint. She covers news, human interest, epidemiology and personal finance stories
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Updated: 30 Dec 2022, 02:16 PM IST
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