New Delhi: The XBB1.16 COVID-19 variant, also known as Arcturus is fueling a new surge of cases in India, US, Singapore, Australia, and other countries. The variant was declared as a ‘variant under monitoring’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in late March considering it the most transmissible variant yet.
In regard to this, ETHealthworld addresses some of the frequently asked questions related to the new Arcturus variant, and the new symptoms associated with it.
What is the new XBB.1.16 variant?
XBB.1.16 is a recombinant of two sub-variants- BA2.10.1 and BA.2.75. While considered significantly more transmissible than its COVID predecessors, Arcturus has not settled into a predictable pattern, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead, WHO.
Kerkhove stated that Arcturus continues to evolve. Omicron is the variant of concern that remains dominant worldwide and there are still more than 600 sub-lineages of Omicron that are in circulation. The WHO is monitoring the XBB1.16 which is similar in profile to the XBB.1.5.
There are around 800 sequences of XBB.1.16 from 22 countries and most of the sequences are from India. It has replaced the other variants that are in circulation.
This makes it important to have all necessary systems in place to track the variants, check global collaborations to assess transmissibility, immune escape, and severity, and check the impact of any intervention including diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
How is Arcturus different from earlier strains?
The Arcturus variant has an additional spike protein which in lab studies shows increased infectivity as well as potential increased pathogenicity, as per the WHO. A study conducted by the University of Tokyo suggested that the XBB.1.16 variant spreads 1.17-1.27 times more efficiently than XBB.1 and XBB.1.5.
What are the new symptoms of Arcturus?
Experts have pointed out that the new variant is especially affecting children. Symptoms include pink or sticky conjunctivitis eyes, headache, sore throat, and blocked nose. Among adults, nasal discharge, sore throat, loss of smell, severe bronchitis, and cough have been observed.
The increasing number of cases in India
Amid rising COVID-19 cases, active cases stand at 49,622 which is 0.11 per cent of all the cases reported since the start of the pandemic, as per the Union Health Ministry bulletin.
Atishi Marlena, Education Minister, Delhi said that the Delhi government is reviewing the situation and COVID-19 guidelines for schools will be updated within a week. Schools in the NCR region have already been alerted, and students and teachers have been asked to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour. AIIMS Delhi has also shared its COVID guidelines for the hospital staff.