30 cases of XBB 1.16 variant of Covid-19 in Karnataka, 2 in Telangana

Experts attribute the recent rise in Covid-19 cases to the XBB.1.16 variant, while influenza cases are because of H3N2.

BySumit Jha

Published Mar 20, 2023 | 8:35 PMUpdatedMar 20, 2023 | 8:35 PM

30 cases of XBB 1.16 variant of Covid-19 in Karnataka, 2 in Telangana

The new Covid-19 variant, XBB 1.16 — also known as the Arcturus variant — has been found in southern states which has caused the recent rise in the cases, according to INSACOG.

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG) said around 30 cases of the variant have been reported in Karnataka, seven cases in Puducherry, and two cases in Telangana.

A total of 76 samples of XBB 1.16 variant have been found in India.

Apart from these South Indian states, the variant has been found in Maharashtra (29), Delhi (5), Gujarat (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Odisha (1), the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) data showed.

The XBB 1.16 variant was first found in January when two samples tested positive for it; in February, a total of 59 samples were found.

India saw a single-day rise of over 1,000 fresh Covid-19 cases on Sunday after 129 days. On Monday, the country reported a single-day rise of 918 cases while the active caseload has increased to 6,350.

Related: ICMR approves single-test kit for H3N2, SARS-Cov-2, RSV

‘XBB 1.16 driving Covid rise’

Some experts have attributed the recent rise in Covid-19 cases to this variant.

Former AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, who had led the national Covid task force, said the rise in Covid cases seems to be driven by the XBB 1.16 variant while the influenza cases are because of H3N2.

“For both of these, following Covid-appropriate behaviour can help to contain the spread of infection. And also most of the cases are not severe; so there is no need to panic as of now,” said Guleria, who is currently chairman, Institute of Internal Medicine, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine.

Vipin M Vashishtha, former convenor of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics and consultant paediatrician at the Mangla Hospital and Research Centre, Bijnor, said the new XBB 1.16 variant has now been detected in at least 12 countries, with highest cases being in India, followed by the US, Brunei, Singapore and the UK.

In India, there is a 281 percent increase in cases and 17 percent increase in deaths over the past 14 days, he tweeted.

“All eyes should be on India! If XBB.1.16 aka #Arcturus could succeed to wade through the ‘sturdy’ population immunity of Indians that successfully resisted the onslaught of variants like BA.2.75, BA.5, BQs, XBB.1.5, then whole world must be seriously worried!!” he said in another tweet.

According to INSACOG, around 58.7 percent of Covid-19 cases are of the XBB variant while 32.6 percent cases are of XBB.1.16 variant, 6.5 percent of cases are BA.2.10, and 2.2 percent are BA.2.75 in the country in the week of 17 March.

Avoid antibiotics for Covid: Health Ministry

Antibiotics should not be used in Covid cases unless there is clinical suspicion of bacterial infection, according to a revised guideline for the treatment of adult coronavirus patients issued by the Centre.

The revised guidelines, issued on Sunday amid an uptick in coronavirus cases, stated that drugs such as Lopinavir-ritonavir, hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, Molnupiravir, Favipiravir, Azithromycin and Doxycycline should not be used for the treatment of adult Covid-19 patients in India.

The AIIMS/ICMR-Covid-19 National Task Force met on January 5 to revise the clinical guidance protocol. It has also advised doctors not to use convalescent plasma therapy.

“Antibiotics should not be used unless there is clinical suspicion of bacterial infection. Possibility of co-infection of COVID-19 with other endemic infections must be considered,” the guidelines said.

Additionally, in moderate or severe diseases at high risk of progression, Remdesivir may be considered for up to five days. It should be started within 10 days of onset of symptoms in those having moderate to severe disease with a high risk of progression (requiring supplemental oxygen) but who are not on IMV or ECMO.

There is no evidence of benefit for the treatment of more than five days and is not to be used in patients who are not on oxygen support or in home setting, the guidelines stated.

Besides, in rapidly progressing moderate or severe disease, Tocilizumab should be considered preferably within 24-48 hours of the onset of severe disease/ICU admission.

(With inputs from PTI)