A new omicron subvariant is proliferating. Read here what symptoms the virus triggers and why the Arcturus variant worries experts.
In Germany, the corona pandemic hardly takes place anymore. But news from India makes you sit up and take notice. As the German pharmacy newspaper reported, a new corona variant is currently spreading there, which is also worrying experts. The omicron subvariant XBB.1.16 is nicknamed “Arcturus” and is named after the brightest star in the northern sky.
According to the information, the variant in India has caused “a drastic increase in new infections by around 281 percent within 14 days” and the number of deaths has also increased by 17 percent. Indian experts are already warning the world about the new variant. But why is that?
Arcturus: What symptoms does the new corona variant trigger?
Indian doctor Rajas Walinjkar, who works at Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai, said the TheTimes of india, that the following symptoms occur with the new corona variant Arcturus:
- sore throat
- Fever but not lasting more than 48 hours
- body aches
The symptoms are thus similar to the already widespread omicron variant. Now, however, a pediatrician from India has identified a new symptom that did not previously exist with corona infections.
According to Vipin Vashishta, XBB.1.16 has caused an increase in pediatric Covid cases in India for the first time in six months. On Twitter The expert also posted at the beginning of April that Arcturus in children, in addition to symptoms such as high fever, cough and signs of a cold, also increasingly causes non-purulent itchy conjunctivitis with sticky eyes, i.e. conjunctivitis.
Corona variant Arcturus: why do experts warn of XBB.1.16?
In their report, the German pharmacy newspaper also on the expert Vipin Vashishta. The pediatrician, researcher at the Mangla Hospital and Research Center in Bijnor, India, and member of the WHO vaccine group had warned of the new virus variant on Twitter. “All eyes should be on India! If XBB.1.16 aka #Arcturus could manage to break through the ‘robust’ population immunity of Indians that successfully resisted the onslaught of variants like BA.2.75, BA.5, BQs, XBB.1.5 resisted, then the whole world must be seriously concerned!”
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In India, in mid-March 2023, the number of Covid-19 cases rose again within two weeks from only around 300 new cases a day to over 1000 new infections a day for the first time. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 111 new cases in India on February 1, 2023, 240 cases on March 1, and 1071 new cases on March 19, with a significant jump upwards. But the situation is not as bad as it was in January 2022. At that time she had WHO sometimes more than 330,000 new cases per day reported.
The new variant could still be dangerous. Because she the German pharmacy newspaper according to which a recombinant of two subvariates of the omicron variant could be, XBB.1.16 or Arcturus is “quite concerning”.
New corona variant: what makes Arcturus so dangerous?
The Arcturus variant belongs according to the German pharmacy newspaper to the XBB family, which descends from the Omikron sub-variants BA.2.10 and BA.2.75 and has already undergone many further developments. The various XBB variants have now largely replaced the two omicron subvariants worldwide and, according to the WHO, are likely to spread further.
XBB.1.16 is reportedly an evolution of the Hyppogryph variant (XBB.1) and brings with it new worrying mutations. According to the German pharmacy newspaper Compared to the recently widespread XBB.1.5 subvariant (kraken), Arcturus has three more mutations in the spike protein that could possibly suppress the immune system. In particular, the release of interferon could be inhibited. “In this respect, these mutations are attributed the potential to undermine the immune system of those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered,” the report continues. In addition, a mutation could lead to the virus getting better access to human cells and being able to establish itself. This variant would be even more contagious than its predecessors.
Situation in Germany: How widespread is the new Arcturus variant?
The new Corona variant XBB.1.16 can no longer only be found in India. The report of German pharmacy newspaper according to further cases could already in the USA – where the second most cases were recorded -, in Brunei, Singapore, Austria, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Canada and Germany. According to the report from mid-March, one case was recorded in Bavaria and one in Baden-Württemberg in Germany.
In the meantime it has Robert Koch Institute (RKI) other cases reported. From January 30th to April 9th, 2023 it has RKI a total of 24 cases were found in Germany. The institute reports this in its regular weekly reports. In India, a growing proportion of this omicron subline has recently been shown, parallel to an increase in the Covid-19 incidence there. In Germany, all corona rules have now fallen, so the test culture has also decreased. Other cases of the Arcturus variant are therefore possible. The RKI assumes that the XBB.1 sublines, which include the new Corona variant, will continue to spread in Germany in the coming weeks.
Overall, the Arcturus case numbers in almost all other countries except India are in the low, single to double digit range. Most of the infections were due to travelers from India. More hospitalizations or severe courses due to the new variant could not be determined so far. Experts are still concerned, writes the German pharmacy newspaper.
The WHO has been monitoring the new variant since March 22, 2023. According to the current WHO report of April 27, it has now been detected 3519 times in 37 countries. In the March 30 report, only 712 XBB.1.16 sequences were detected in 21 countries.
New corona variant Arcturus: is there a new wave of infections?
In Germany there are currently no more restrictions in any federal state and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) records a 7-day incidence of only 7 (as of May 2nd, 2023, 8.50 a.m.). Could there be a new wave of infections here if the XBB.1.16 variant spreads more?
The epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs has Focus On-line explained that the appearance of new variants is fundamentally normal. The question of the antigenic structure of the Arcturus variant is now important. If this immunity, which has been learned through vaccination and previous contamination, can spread widely and lead to severe courses and more hospitalizations, this could be a problem. However, there is currently no reliable data from India for an assessment.
Arcturus on the rise in Germany: are booster vaccinations necessary?
According to the current weekly report by the RKI, the proportion of XBB.1 sublines in Germany has increased in recent weeks. With 67 percent, the variants, which also include Arcturus, have further displaced the previously dominant BA.5 and BA.2 variants. But what does this mean for protection against a possible infection? Should people in Germany consider further booster vaccinations?
The WHO currently only recommends booster vaccinations for people at high risk corona to get sick or even die. Virologist Martin Stürmer said that Focus, in principle everyone should have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in accordance with the current Stiko recommendations. If the scheme is still incomplete, Stürmer recommends revaccinations – regardless of the currently prevailing variants. But: “To what extent a further boost reduces the probability of an infection with Arcturus cannot be estimated at the moment.”
According to the virologist, the Arcturus variant has the potential to undermine the immune system. Striker gives dem Focus but to consider that even a booster with the current vaccines would probably not help much. For this reason, it is now important to continue to monitor the status of the basic immunity and to define target groups and distances for a possible further refresher – if necessary even with re-adapted vaccines.
WHO risk report: How dangerous is Arcturus currently?
In a risk report from April 17, the WHO dealt with the possible dangers of the new virus variant. According to this, XBB.1.16 had been detected in 33 countries at the time of the report. The majority of Arcturus cases (63.4 percent) come from India with 2314 sequences. According to the WHO, the variant has also been detected more than 50 times in other countries. As of April 17, these include:
- USA with 10.9 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (396 sequences)
- Singapore with 6.9 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (250 sequences)
- Australia with 3.9 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (143 sequences)
- Canada with 2.6 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (94 sequences)
- brunei with 2.4 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (89 sequences)
- Great Britain with 2.1 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (75 sequences)
- Japan with 2 percent of XBB.1.16 cases (73 sequences)
How focus.de reports, Great Britain has often served as a kind of preview for Germany in the past in the course of the pandemic development. The Arcturus variant had spread widely in the country in April. According to the report, the number of cases had tripled within a few weeks. Overall, the rate of infection – as in Germany – is still at a low level.
In its report on XBB.1.16, the WHO assesses the risk posed by the corona variant as low, especially compared to other variants such as XBB.1.5. However, because Arcturus is more contagious than other variants, the WHO assumes that the corona variant will become dominant in some countries and could lead to an increasing number of cases. According to the report, however, XBB.1.16 does not pose an increased risk compared to the currently dominant variants.
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