SHANGHAI, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese experts on COVID-19 treatment have reassured the public that the imported XBB subvariants of Omicron are unlikely to cause a new infection peak in China in the near future.
There have been mounting public concerns in China about the new XBB sub-strains coming from overseas and the possible reinfections among those who have just recovered from the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Risks of reinfection of the highly immune-evasive XBB will rise after a period since the infection of the more prevalent BA.5 in China, said Zhang Boli, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
However, Zhang said the chances are low for such reinfections to strike within three to six months after the initial infection of other members of the novel coronavirus family, citing clinical observations.
First detected in August 2022, the XBB subvariant family has spread rapidly in countries like India, Singapore, and the United States. In the United States, the XBB.1.5 is rapidly replacing other Omicron mutations to become dominant.
Wang Xinyu, deputy director of the infectious disease department of the Shanghai-based Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, said the recent COVID-19 upsurge reduced the number of susceptible individuals in China. It is, therefore, unlikely for the XBB to bring a new peak in infection in the short term.
"People who have just recovered have a pretty high level of antibodies. They are less likely to be infected by the XBB variant compared with those who have never been vaccinated or infected," he told Xinhua in an interview.
The doctor also said the chances of developing severe conditions during reinfections are much lower for those previously infected by similar sub-variants.
The views of Zhang and Wang echoed that of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which predicted a low possibility of a large-scale epidemic caused by the XBB.
The center said BA.5.2 and BF.7 sub-strains remain the two dominating strains in the country. China detected BF.7, BQ.1, and XBB imports in the past three months, but BQ.1 and XBB have not developed into dominant subvariants in the country.
It said that neutralizing antibodies from individuals infected with BA.5.2 and BF.7 will remain relatively high for about three months. These patients should have effective cross-protection against other Omicron variants, including XBB. ■