The novel coronavirus variant XBB, first identified in Singapore, has been increasingly detected in the United States. Scientists are studying the effects of XBB’s subvariants, XBB.1 and XBB.1.5, which have been detected in the Northeast, to understand its spread and impact.
Dr. Jeremy Luban of UMass Chan Medical School identified the most likely explanation for XBB's spread as its increased transmissibility. Those with weakened immune systems face the greatest risk from XBB, as the monoclonal antibodies used to treat them are not effective against the variant. To protect themselves from XBB, experts suggest that people get booster shots, specifically the bivalent booster vaccine which has been proven effective against the Omicron variant and the original form of the virus.
The CDC has identified XBB as a recombinant of two BA.2 sublineages. The University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy noted that XBB has a growth advantage over BQ.1.1 and has fueled outbreaks in parts of Asia, including Singapore. Scientists are currently watching XBB.1.5, which has a mutation that has been linked to immune escape. Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif., suggested that XBB.1.5 may have contributed to the recent rise in hospitalizations in New York.
The CDC, White House, and other experts have urged the public to stay up to date with their vaccines to reduce the spread of XBB and other variants. It is essential that people take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their communities.