Arcturus reaches the next level due to strong growth

XBB.1.16 in more and more countries

Due to strong growth – Arcturus reaches the next level

Today, May 2, 2023 | 16:23

Focus on the Internet / Wochit
‘Arcturus’ is on the rise – how virologists assess the variant

Arcturus has made a name for itself, especially in India. There, the omicron variant XBB.1.16 caused a halo wave for the first time in six months. Everything was played at a generally low level. However, experts like expert Vipin Vashishta, pediatrician as well as researchers at
Mangla Hospital and Research Centre
in Bijnor, India, and a member of the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Group, Arcturus and its impact intensively. According to him, Arcturus is now in 42 countries.

Due to its growth feature, XBB.1.16 has also spread very well in Singapore, Australia and the USA. Great Britain has also reported rising case numbers. The fact that Arcturus spread faster than its ancestors has given the omicron species its own clade, that is, an evolutionary branch. In the official lines of “PangoNetwork” XBB.1.16 and its descendants are now called 23B (Omicron) – similar to 23A (Omicron), behind which the octopus XBB.1.5 is hidden.


Arcturus numbers in the UK have tripled

Within two weeks in April, Arcturus tripled its share in the UK through a distribution feature. There, too, the infection rate remains at a low level in absolute numbers. But UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) officials say Arcturus is among the UK’s “most competitive” Covid strains. They expect one of the strains to become dominant in the coming weeks.

At the same time, they qualified: “However, sample numbers for XBB.1.16 are very small and results may change as more data become available.”
latest report
Arcturus accounts for 2.3 percent of the analyzed specimens.

What does that mean for Germany? The past has often shown that Great Britain provided a kind of preview to Germany. Because many of the developments during the pandemic also reached this country after a few weeks. This was often due to better data collection on the other side of the channel.


To date, very few XBB.1.16 sequences (n = 24, week 5-14/2023) have been transmitted in Germany, such as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
Current weekly report

And as far as the overview of the events of the Halo variant is concerned, it’s unlikely that anything here will improve in the future. RKI writes: Even after variant documentation ends, monitoring of Sars-CoV-2 variants circulating in Germany will be ensured in Germany.

But the data basis for this is still manageable. It says: “As part of the well-established surveillance for Sars-CoV-2, the genome sequencing of approximately 100 Sars-CoV-2-positive samples per week will continue to be performed at the RKI.”

Arcturus is kind of interesting

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Arcturus
As a variable of interest (VOI) for a while due to the advantage of sustainable growth reported by many countries.

Small chronology:

  • XBB.1.16 was first reported on January 9, 2023 and
  • It was identified as a variable under control (VUM) on March 22, 2023.
  • On April 17, 2023, XBB.1.16 was designated as a variable of interest (VOI).

This is how WHO characterizes the omicron variant: XBB.1.16 is a descendant of XBB, a recombination of the BA.2 lineage. XBB.1.16 has a similar genetic profile to the VOI XBB.1.5, with additional mutations at amino acids E180V and K478R in the spike protein compared to the original XBB.1.

There is no evidence that Arcturus makes the disease more severe than its predecessor

Even if the coronavirus mutates continuously, it does not change the level of danger at the same time. The World Health Organization writes: “The global risk assessment for XBB.1.16 is low compared to XBB.1.5 and other variants currently in circulation, at this point in time and with available evidence.” Although growth advantages and immune escape characteristics are present in different countries and against different immune backgrounds, but no changes in severity have been reported. A slight increase in bed occupancy was recorded in India and Indonesia. However, the levels are much lower than previous changing waves.

Even experts in this country do not expect an increased disease burden from XBB.1.16. “I don’t think Arcturus will lead to so many acute cycles again,” said Ulf Dittmer, director of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital Essen, when asked online by FOCUS.

Especially people who were vaccinated first and then had mild/moderate disease, have very broad immunity – through antibodies as well as through T-cells. This applies to many in Europe. “This protects them so well against serious diseases that no conceivable alternative can completely avoid them.”

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