New York is becoming an “emerging hotspot” for the XBB family of Singapore-hit COVID variants as BQ moves closer to US dominance.

New York is becoming an “emerging hotspot” for the XBB family of Singapore-hit COVID variants as BQ moves closer to US dominance.

Both variants of the BQ strain are predicted to account for 35% of US infections. Prediction of COVID From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s slightly behind the variant family BA.5, which was still leading US cases on Friday, with an estimated 39%.

BQ cases may very well dominate the CDC’s next weekly forecast, due next Friday. Experts, including Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, have said for weeks that BQ will likely serve as the next wave of COVID cases in the U.S. main force.

Bebtelovimab, the last antibody remaining in the lab that is effective against all variants of COVID, is not expected to work against BQ and its close relative, BQ.1.1, the US Food and Drug Administration said Friday. That’s bad news for immunocompromised patients, many of whom need extra help from hospital-administered monoclonal antibody treatments to fight the virus after infection.

XBB is waiting in the wings.

Meanwhile, a potential wave of an equally worrisome XBB variant is brewing in the U.S., said Raj Rajnarayanan, associate dean for research and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology in Jonesboro, Ark. Fortune.

As always, the epicenter is New York. The Empire State is considered the belfry when it comes to COVID waves due to its high volume of incoming international travelers and powerful genetic sequencing capabilities.

“New York is an emerging XBB.1 hotspot,” said Rajnarayanan.

A variant, a recombinant or combination of two Omicron strains, has recently made headlines. spiking well grafted in Singapore. Along with BQ.1.1, it is believed to be the most immune variant of COVID to date, surpassing the immune evasion of the common ancestor BA.5, which dominated the world this summer.

Of the 35 cases of XBB or descendants identified in the U.S. so far, nearly half have been found in New York, Rajnarayan said, citing data from GISAID, an international research organization that tracks changes in the COVID and flu virus. Most of those cases were XBB.1, an “infant” version of XBB that shows an advantage in portability, but about which little is known.

The CDC has yet to report XBB in the US and won’t until it accounts for more than 1% of nationally sequenced cases for at least one week. For nowXBB cases clustered with BA.5, its parent lineage.

Multiple options can win the contest

A number of Omicron variants are cropping up in various countries this fall, and variant scouts have been waiting to see if XBB and BQ will battle it out. dominance in the same place.

That may or may not happen. In the US, XBB may follow the country’s BQ channel, experts say.

Or, both may become dominant.

“XBB and BQs will be something at the same time,” said Dr. Ryan Gregory, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Fortune.

The XBB could go hand in hand with the BQ version, and a new kids version could lead the pack, Gregory says.

But one thing is certain, according to Rajnarayanan. XBB is a good candidate for triggering the next wave in New York City, where it currently accounts for 2% to 3% of consecutive COVID cases.

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