COVID-19 News: Forget About XBB.1.16 Variant, Experts And The General Public Should Be More Worried About The XBB.2.3 Variant And Its Spawns!
: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are emerging. These novel strains have the potential to cause significant changes in the virus's transmissibility, severity, and immune evasion capabilities.
While the XBB.1.16 variant recently caught the attention of health experts and the mainstream media worldwide, a lesser-known XBB.2.3
variant warrants a closer look as it poses an even more significant threat to global health.
The XBB.2.3 sub-lineage most probably originated also in India but was found spreading in miniscule amounts also in Europe about the same time in late mid- January 2023.
The XBB.2.3 sub-lineage is defined by the spike mutations S:P521S and S:S486P but also spots a number of other mutations on its ORF proteins.
The other defining mutations of XBB.2.3 are:
Spike mutation-D253G (seen in teh past in the lamda and iota variants)
Spike mutation-P521S (a new mutattaion only seen in the XBB sub-lineages)
ORF1a mutation-G2091S and ORF7amutation-A13V
The XBB.2.3 sub-lineage spots a reversion back to reference (T) 16342:C->T (ORF1b:959S) mutation. 16342 was the defining mutation of BA.2.10 (ancestor to BJ.1 which donated part of XBB)
The XBB.2.3 Variant: A Greater Cause for Concern
The current onslaughts by the XBB.1.16 variant seems to be causing more issues in those vulnerable groups (ie the aged, the obese, the immunocompromised and those with existing comorbidities or certain genetic makeups) irrespective of immunity of vaccine status as covered by various COVID-19 News
reports. An Indian study has also shown that it does drive disease severity with about 25.7 of all those infected typically requiring hospitalization of which 33.8 percent of those will end up requiring supplemental oxygen!
The XBB.2.3 variant has already been found in more than 47 countries including the United States and Thailand and while the XBB.1.16 variant for now is stealing the ‘limelight’ by become the prevailing variant in many countries, the XBB2.3 variant and its sp
awns are like to displace the XBB.1.16 variant in about 6 to 8 weeks’ time.
Experts and the general public should be more concerned about the XBB.2.3 variant and its spawns as they are demonstrating several concerning attributes:
: The XBB.2.3 variant has a higher transmission rate than the XBB.1.16 strain, allowing it to spread more rapidly among populations. This could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases, putting additional strain on healthcare systems worldwide. This increased transmissibility is due to enhanced binding to the ACE2 due to the new spike mutations found on it.
Enhanced Immune Evasion
: The XBB.2.3 variant exhibits even greater immune evasiveness than the XBB.1.16 variant and has the potential to evade all forms of immunity including those conferred by the existing boosters or by previous infections.
Potential for Severe Disease
: Preliminary data is indicating that indicating that XBB.2.3 variant may lead to more severe cases of COVID-19 as it also evades the last defending immunity conferred by T cells in the human host. Along with that, there are yet to be proven speculations that it will also cause damage to the T cells, even far worse than in HIV infections!
We can expect to see not only more opportunistic secondary infections contributing to disease severity and also more long-term issues and a possibly rise in mortality rates. Further urgent research is required to confirm our hypothesis and speculation.
Uncertainty Around Vaccine Efficacy
: Again, preliminary data suggests that current vaccines and boosters may provide reduced or no protection against the XBB.2.3 variant. While vaccine manufacturers are working to adapt their formulations, it is unclear how long it will take for updated vaccines to become available.
XBB.2.3 Rapidly Evolving And Spawning More Worrisome Sub-lineages Like XBB.2.3.2, XBB.2.3.4, XBB.2.3.5 etc
The XBB.2.3 variant is also one of the most volatile variants that seems to be aggressively and rapidly evolving to not only evade all forms of immunity and also to develop antiviral resistance to various molecules but also seems to gaining traction to be more pathogenic and virulent.
To date, it has spawned various sub-lineages spotting worrisome spike and N protein mutations and with mutations also on the various ORF proteins that are concerned with immune suppression and also impairment of various host cellular functions.
While we have so far the XBB.2.3.1, XBB.2.3.2, XBB.2.3.4, XBB.2.3.5 and XBB.2.3.6 sub-lineages, more are emerging including spawns from these newer sub-lineages themselves.
There are still many more XBB.2.3 sub-lineages still emerging and are being monitored.
Some of the newer XBB.2.3 spawns like XBB.2.3.6 are also giving rise to newer sub-lineages with interesting mutations on it.
Addressing the Threat of the XBB.2.3 Variant
Given the potentially severe consequences of the XBB.2.3 variant, it is crucial for governments and health organizations worldwide to act swiftly to contain its spread. Recommended actions include:
: Health authorities should intensify genomic sequencing efforts to detect and monitor the XBB.2.3 variant, as well as any other emerging strains.
Rapid Vaccine Adaptation
: Vaccine manufacturers must prioritize the development of updated vaccines that effectively target the XBB.2.3 variant.
Reinforcing Public Health Measures
: Public health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene remain crucial to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, including the XBB.2.3 variant.
Other emerging XBB Variants.
There are also many other new XBB sub-lineages that are rapidly emerging are also of concern such as the XBB.2.4, The XBB.3, XBB.4, XBB.8 etc but they have yet to demonstrate increasing growth and potential of prevalence but never the less, we are going to see constant COVID-19 onslaughts around the world with the XBB.1.16 now heading the current ones which be followed by the XBB.2.3 and its spawns and thereafter something else for sure. COVID-19 is far from over. Also, narratives that the newer sub-lineages are mild, or that we are now in an endemic phase or that we have to learn to live with the virus are all from the mouths of health authorities who are clueless and hate to admit that they have failed miserably to contain the virus!
While the XBB.1.16 variant has garnered significant attention, it is the XBB.2.3 variant that poses a more significant threat to global health. The potential consequences of this new strain underscore the importance of proactive and coordinated efforts to contain its spread. As the pandemic continues to evolve, staying informed about emerging variants and responding with appropriate strategies is essential to safeguard public health and ultimately bring an end to the COVID-19 crisis.
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