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Tracking SARS-CoV-2 Variants During the 2023 Flu Season and Beyond in Lebanon.

Virus Research 2023 November 29
BACKGROUND: Early SARS-CoV-2 variant detection relies on testing and genomic surveillance. The Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has quickly become the dominant type among the previous circulating variants worldwide. Several subvariants have emerged exhibiting greater infectivity and immune evasion. In this study we aimed at studying the prevalence of the Omicron subvariants during the flu season and beyond in Lebanon through genomic screening and at determining the overall standing and trajectory of the pandemic in the country.

METHODS: A total of 155 SARS-CoV-2 RNA samples were sequenced, using Nanopore sequencing technology.

RESULTS: Nanopore sequencing of 155 genomes revealed their distribution over 39 Omicron variants. XBB.1.5 (23.29%) was the most common, followed by XBB.1.9.1 (10.96%) and XBB.1.42 (7.5%). The first batch collected between September and November 2022, included the BA.2.75.2, BA.5.2, BA.5.2.20, BA.5.2.25 and BQ.1.1.5 lineages. Between December 2022 and January 2023, those lineages were replaced by BA.2.75.5, BN.1, BN.1.4, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BQ.1.1.23, CH.1.1, CM.4 and XBK. Starting February 2023, we observed a gradual emergence and dominance of the recombinant XBB and its sub-lineages (XBB.1, XBB.1.5, XBB.1.5.2, XBB.1.5.3, XBB.1.9, XBB.1.9.1, XBB.1.9.2, XBB.1.16, XBB.1.22 and XBB.1.42).

CONCLUSIONS: The timely detection and characterization of SARS-CoV-2 variants is important to reduce transmission through established disease control measures and to avoid introductions into animal populations that could lead to serious public health implications.

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