As we enter the new year, and with the holiday season behind us, health experts are pointing to a new COVID variant found in the U.S. that is responsible for a growing number of cases across the country, reports CNN. Creating a new sublineage known as XBB, this fast-spreading offshoot of Omicron, named XBB.1.5, continues to gain traction. Over the course of December alone, the number of XBB.1.5 cases increased by roughly 37%. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports via their COVID Data Tracker that XBB.1.5 now stands as the source for 40.5% of all new infection cases.
With the emergence of this new Omicron sublineage, the scientific community has been hard at work to determine the effectiveness of current vaccines and viral treatments against the new variant. In a recent study published in Cell, researchers found that compared to BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and XBB, the XBB.1 variant was most adept at evading both infection-based and vaccine-induced immunity. The monoclonal antibody treatment bebtelovimab was also found to be ineffective against the XBB variant.