GREENSBORO, N.C. — The latest COVID variant is XBB1.5. Where did this thing come from? The family tree started with Omicron in January 2022, which spawned BA4 and BA5 in the summer of 2022.
Those two gave way to BQ1 and BQ1.1 in the fall of 2022.
Our local health experts call XBB1.5 the great, great-granddaughter of Omicron and made a point of mentioning it is a recombinant virus. Here's why that is important.
“When two viruses, a Messenger and RNA pop a bottle of wine and light some candles and exchange their information and you get messenger RNA that's half of one virus and half of the other and it creates a whole new virus that's what XBB1.5 is,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist.
Why are COVID variants all a mishmash of Greek letters and numbers? The World Health Organization designed it that way to avoid confusion with scientific names and to prevent discrimination that can come with naming variants after locations where they begin. But it's still confusing, right? So, let's get to some plain talk.
“This one has a mutation that makes it attach a little bit better to the receptors in the back of the nose and throat. That's where it first attaches and that makes it a bit more infectious,” said Ohl.
Dr. Ohl says XBB1.5 says even folks with vaccines and boosters are more likely to get a breakthrough infection with this variant than others.
"Of all the variants we've seen since the beginning of COVID, this one seems to be the most infectious of them all," said Ohl.