Covid-19 continues to develop. A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, dubbed "Arcturus", was detected in January in India. This CXBB.1.16 strain, from Omicron, has spread to around thirty countries. In addition to cough, high fever and deep fatigue, it produces new symptoms in the youngest, similar to those of conjunctivitis.
Until now, eye infection characterized by reddening and swelling was only a rare symptom of Covid-19. With Arcturus, patients suffer “from itchy eyes, associated with redness of the conjunctiva, with a sticky eyelid,” said Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva.
Indian doctors have also reported a cold and cough, high fever, but also "sticky eyes" and "itchy conjunctivitis" in children. According to scientists, this phenomenon could be explained by the low rate of vaccination among the youngest. "Health experts have also clarified that obese, asthmatic or immunocompromised children would be more vulnerable to these viral infections," said the Times of India newspaper.
Arcturus is causing a viral rebound in India, with around 11,000 new cases reported every day, prompting health authorities to restart vaccine production and reinstate the wearing of masks in closed places. In France, ten cases have been detected, in Normandy, in the Center-Val-de-Loire, in the Grand-Est, in Île-de-France and in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, indicates the monitoring site GISAID on its database.
XBB.1.16 has been classified by the World Health Organization as "under surveillance" because of its multiple mutations, but there are no signs at this stage that it involves any particularly severe forms of the disease.
Arcturus "has an additional mutation in the Spike protein, which, in the light of laboratory studies, is characterized by potentially increased infectivity and pathogenicity", explained on Twitter an epidemiologist responsible for the unit of emerging diseases at WHO. . For comparison, this variant spreads 1.17 to 1.27 times faster than the previous ones.
While the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 has fallen by 95% since the start of the year, the WHO warned on Wednesday that the virus is not about to disappear. The emergence of the XBB.1.16 variant shows that “the virus continues to mutate and it is still capable of causing new waves of contamination and death”, alerted Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO. "Several countries are seeing (...) a resurgence and, over the past four weeks, 14,000 people have succumbed to this disease".
The WHO has also indicated that the XBB variant and its subvariants are now globally dominant. Faced with its tenth wave of Covid-19, this one very moderate, France is mainly affected by the XBB.1.15 variant.