A new, highly-transmissible variant of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been circulating in the United States, and is outcompeting other subvariants to take up a larger proportion of detected COVID-19 caseloads. Medical experts are also bristling at the unofficial nickname ‘The Kraken’ being applied to this subvariant, since, aside from its increased transmissibility, there is nothing to warrant such a foreboding moniker.
 

XBB.1.5 is a recombinant hybrid of two subvariant lineages of the BA.2 variant of Omicron, created when an individual was infected with both subvariants of the virus; the result was the XBB strain of Omicron, of which was first detected in England in September 2022, and later mutated to produce the XBB.1.5 subvariant.

Numerous virologists are downplaying XBB.1.5’s unofficial nickname of ‘The Kraken’, pointing out that assigning ominous names such as this implies that the subvariant is somehow more dangerous than its close relatives, when this is not the case, especially considering that there is not enough data to determine this; additionally, XBB.1.5 isn’t genetically distinct enough from other members of the Omicron family to warrant its own name to begin with.

XBB.1.5 does however seem to be more transmissible than its brethren, with the subvariant’s share of recorded caseloads in the U.S. jumping from between five and 10 percent to more than 40 percent in the span of two weeks, with XBB.1.5 becoming the dominant strain in the country by the end of 2022.

XBB.1.5 differs from the XBB strain of Omicron by a single mutation to its spike protein that may allow it to attach to our cells’ ACE2 receptors more easily than earlier versions, a feature that would explain its increased transmissibility. This change to the spike protein may also allow XBB.1.5 to evade the immune system’s antibodies that may have been acquired through vaccination or previous infection, although it remains to be seen if this immune-evasive ability might be any more pronounced than that of the other Omicron subvariants, an unfortunate advantage Omicron has over its Alpha and Delta predecessors.

Genetically-speaking, XBB.1.5 does not appear to have any mutations that would indicate that it causes more severe sickness in infected individuals than other Omicron subvariants, although its increased transmissibility increases the probability that it may reach individuals that are susceptible to more severe forms of COVID-19, in turn leading to an increased number of hospitalizations and deaths.

A recent study released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that receiving a bivalent booster shot covering the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 strains reduced the likelihood of the recipient contracting a symptomatic form of COVID-19 by between 30 and 56 percent, depending on how much time had elapsed since the individual’s initial doses, and between 28 and 43 percent for individuals over 65 years of age.

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6 Comments

  1. I am wondering if this varient has attached itself to me.
    I was Covid positive the week before Xmas , wasn’t really ill , just a stuffy nose and general malaise . I did a test as I visit my elderly Mother in a care home . I was surprised it showed positive. Luckily , I was able to work from home until clear on Xmas eve .
    All of the family caught it . My husband , who had to isolate at home , daughter who is pregnant , her husband and 3 the kids . We were all clear by Xmas day and none of us ill.
    Then a week after Xmas my husband started to be poorly with flu like symptoms , he had to take to his bed and needed a week off sick . I was not very well , had a stuffy nose , but lost my voice for two days . General tiredness and slight headache on the first day . I carried on and croaked my way through shifts in the office.
    My daughter felt a bit off too , being pregnant , she decided to do a test as she had an ante- natal appointment and had to attend a clinic . This was last Saturday and she showed Covid positive. Her husband was also positive again . I think me and my husband have had Covid again as well , but by Saturday we were feeling better and tested negative.
    My question is ? Has anyone else here had repeat Covid infection within such a short passage of time ?
    I have had all my boosters and my daughter and her husband also , we weren’t all that poorly but with the second infection my husband was a lot worse and developed a nagging cough that’s still lingering now.
    I was shocked that this happened . I never even bothered testing the second time as I thought a person had immunity from Covid for a few weeks after getting Covid . This has thrown up a lot of questions about the nature of Covid and how these varients are able to infect people .

    1. There’s research being released that suggests that Covid causes damage to some types of the host’s T-cells, weakening the immune system and allowing other pathogens, like RSV and the flu, to hit harder, so it’s possible that one (or both) of those ailments might have been what was causing the symptoms, exacerbated by the effects of your family’s previous Covid infections.

      Remember that an immunity to diseases like Covid isn’t a magic shield that keep the virus itself out; rather, it offers your immune system the key to fighting it, allowing your system to defeat it faster and help prevent symptoms that might have otherwise been worse, so your family might have caught a short-lived infection with the test before your bodies eliminated it.

      Mind you, if the immune-damaging effects of SARS-CoV-2 are real, then you might very well have had a second Covid infection, made worse by the previous one. It’s also possible that the negative tests over Christmas were false negatives (test kits aren’t as sensitive to Omicron, being geared for Alpha), and they all happened to come up clear.

      Basically, there’s a variety of scenarios that could have caused this, and you’ll probably never know what actually happened. But in the meantime, definitely take care of you and yours, and take steps to help you fight whatever might be infecting you.

  2. Who trusts the CDC or NIH anymore after 2 years of lying and profiting from COVID?

    1. Can you provide me with a link to any evidence regarding either of those institutions having lied about COVID-19, or having profited from the pandemic, outside of the usual federal funding they receive?

      I’ve been following the news regarding this disease for nearly a third of a decade (the COVID-19 pandemic started more than three years ago), and in that time I’ve heard a lot of talk about health authorities lying about the disease, but despite how many people I ask, nobody has been able to back these claims up.

      If the CDC or NIH has been misrepresenting what’s been going on, that means nearly the entirety of the world’s health organizations have been part of a massive conspiracy to mislead the public, then I’d really like to get my hands on the scoop of the century.

    2. I’m a holistic health care provider, and I trust the CDC and NIH as much as I trust anyone. That is, they may not always have the answers, since they are figuring things out as they go along just like the rest of us, but I trust them to try to get it right.

      Like Matthew, I follow the news, and I also attend weekly infectious disease update webinars from the University of New Mexico and read professional medical literature.

      The conspiracy-mongering gets exhausting– and exhaustion is not good for our immune systems. I appreciate this article’s sober summary of the current variant situation.

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