Surge of SARS-CoV-2 Variants in China and USA Further Emphasizes Need for Surveillance, Preparedness, and International Collaborations

BALTIMORE, MD, January 9, 202: Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the Global Virus Network (GVN), Associate Vice President for International Partnerships and Innovation at the University of South Florida and Professor of the  Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Internal Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the GVN Southeast U.S. Regional Headquarters today issued a statement on the surge of SARS-CoV-2.  The GVN is, a coalition comprised of human and animal virologists from 68 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 39 countries. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over.  The present surge of variants and significant wave of infections in China has reminded us that we must focus on preparedness and surveillance. The BAF7 SARS-CoV-2 variant is presently the most prevalent in China. BA5 is also prevalent, and novel omicron lineages are developing, Concurrently, in the USA, the XBB 1.5 is taking the lead, accounting for around 30% of infections as of January 7, 2023 (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC). Both BF7 and XBB 1.5 stem from Omicron. BF7 is a derivative of BA5 and XBB 1.5 originated from BA2 through XBB and XBB 1 after recombination between two BA2 sub lineages.

BF7 and XBB (the precursor of XBB 1.5) are not new variants since they were previously identified in several countries. They show stunning contagiousness with reproductive rates as high as 10 to 18 (while those of Delta variant were around 4 or 5). Also, they very efficiently escape the host humoral antibody-based immune response. Fortunately, thus far, they do not show increased severity in disease and the vaccination still offers protection against severe infections.

Yet, we do not know what the future will hold, and the emergence of novel, more severe variants cannot be ruled out.  This is particularly relevant in China where the very high number of infected individuals may result in a generation of new variants. Immunity has waned since vaccines were administered over 1 year ago with domestic vaccines less effective than the mRNA-based vaccines and low booster rates. Therefore, virus change, or genetic drift is possible for the hundreds of millions of cases occurring in China with potential global spillover.

In this context, genomics -based surveillance together with efficient detection of the virus at the borders and in clinical and wastewater samples will be key over the next months. 

Thus, COVID-19 is a global challenge and science-based independent international collaborations are incredibly necessary.

In this context, scientists of the GVN are reinforcing their collaborations to contribute to the surveillance and monitoring of novel variants and the understanding of their dissemination capacity.”

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, existing and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 68 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 39 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews