Home » What’s happening in China? The hypothesis of the Gryphon variant (XBB.1.5) which brought the country to its knees

What’s happening in China? The hypothesis of the Gryphon variant (XBB.1.5) which brought the country to its knees

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What’s happening in China?  The hypothesis of the Gryphon variant (XBB.1.5) which brought the country to its knees

What’s happening in China? Why has the pandemic regained strength? Suspicions focus on the subvariant XBB.1.5 of the SarsCoV2 virus, also known as Gryphon: this recent member of the Omicron family could be one of the causes of the surge in the Covid-19 epidemic in China, alongside the release of the restriction measures. At the moment it is only a hypothesis, the virologist Francesco Brcolo of the University of Salento tells ANSA, but there are many coincidences. The same subvariant, one of the latest additions to the now vast family of the Omicron variant, seems in fact linked to the recent increase in hospitalizations for Covid-19 in the United States and in particular in New York, where the XBB.1.5 subvariant has increased by 140%. in the last month recording a higher Covid hospitalization rate, higher than that of the Covid wave of summer 2021, due to the Delta variant. «It is true that in China we have passed in a short time from a severe restriction policy to a sudden opening, but it is also true that the population has received a vaccine, Sinovac, with an administration equal to 241 doses per 100 inhabitants, equal to that of the United Kingdom,” he notes.

What is subvariant XBB.1.5

«If XBB.1.5 has such a fast growth advantage over BQ.1.1, that’s not a good sign», explains Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and former member of the advisory board of the Covid Tracking Project as well as author of several scientific texts. «Last week, David Ho’s lab at Columbia University published a paper in Cell titled “Alarming Antibody Avoidance Properties of SARS-CoV-2 Subvariants BQ and XBB.” We knew from Yunlong Cao’s lab that XBB and BQ.1.1 were among the most immune evasive variants seen to date, but this new paper determined that immune evasion for XBB.1 is greater than BQ.1.1. Today, Yunlong Cao just released new data to show that XBB.1.5 is no more immune evasive than XBB (which is good news) but has a tighter binding to its ACE2 receptor, which would explain its higher level of transmissibility», added Topol in his report on the variants of Covid.

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The Chinese vaccine

The vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against contagion, 88% against hospitalizations, 90% against severe forms of the disease and 86% against deaths, according to data recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine . If the vaccine situation is not enough to explain the increase in the epidemic in China, neither is the end of the restrictions sufficient: “something very important is happening, the number of deaths from Covid is uncontrollable and so far – observes Broccolo – it has only hinted at the possibility that one or more new variants are circulating».

All variants under study

There is no shortage of candidates, but at the moment attention is focused on XBB.1.5, which has been circulating in China since October and which is the result of the recombination of two other Omicron subvariants: BJ.1 (BA. and BA.2.75 (BA. «A real swarm of variants is circulating, some of which would represent a convergent evolution, first of all the XBB which is rapidly replacing common subvariants, such as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. To make it advance so quickly – notes the expert – would be a mutation, called F486P, which would allow it to escape the antibodies generated both by Omicron 5 infections and by vaccines, including the bivalent mRNA vaccine and would also strengthen the link with the receptor ACE2, i.e. the entrance door of the virus, present above all on the cells of the respiratory epithelium ».

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