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expert comments about the XBB.1.16 Omicron subvariant

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published a new technical briefing on SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern on Friday, containing information on XBB.1.16 Omicron subvariant, also known as ‘Arcturus’.


Prof Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology and Director, UCL Genetics Institute, UCL, said:

“XBB.1.16 is very closely related to XBB.1.5 (two mutations, one in the spike protein), the currently dominant variant in the UK.  In places that didn’t have an XBB.1.5 wave (e.g. India or China), it is expected to do well (as did XBB.1.5).  Conversely, in places like the UK, it is not expected to have much of an impact on case numbers, and even less so, on hospitalisations and deaths.  XBB.1.16 is still at low frequency here in the UK, but it may become the next dominant variant in the future.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Prof Francois Balloux: “I don’t have any conflict of interest to declare.”

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