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Coronavirus Variant Arcturus: | Omicron XBB.1.16 Variant

Published on May 12, 2023 and last reviewed on May 17, 2023   -  4 min read


Arcturus is an emerging variant of the Omicron virus that causes various symptoms and spreads rapidly across the world. Read on to learn more about it.


The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of challenges and uncertainties for people around the world. New variants of the virus are emerging due to mutations. One such variant is the Arcturus variant, also known as the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant. With its high number of mutations, the Arcturus variant has captured global attention and raised concerns among health experts.As the world continues to battle COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of the Arcturus variant highlights the urgent need for continued vigilance and adaptation in our fight against the virus.

What Is the Arcturus Virus?

The Arcturus variant is a strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. It is also known as the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant by the World Health Organization (WHO). This variant was first detected in early January 2023 and has since been identified in several countries around the world. The WHO declared this virus a “variant of interest” because of its spread and transmissibility. A number of the cases have been reported in India, and there has been an increase in the number of cases in the United States as well.

How Is the Arcturus Variant Different From Previous Strains?

The Arcturus virus is different from the previous strains in several ways.

  • Mutations: The Arcturus variant has a large number of mutations compared to previous strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Specifically, it has over 50 mutations in the spike protein alone, which is part of the virus that causes infection.

    1. Some of the mutations in the spike protein are located in the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which is part of the spike protein that interacts with the human ACE2 receptor in human cells. These mutations may make it easier for the virus to enter human cells and cause infection.

    2. Another set of mutations in the spike protein of the Arcturus variant is located in the N-terminal domain (NTD). This can affect the binding of antibodies to the virus, which may affect the effectiveness of medications that target this part of the virus.

The mutations are of particular concern because they could potentially affect the virus's transmissibility, severity, and response to vaccines and treatments.

  • Transmissibility: Early data suggests that the Arcturus variant may be more transmissible than previous strains of the virus, including the Delta variant. This may be due to changes in the spike protein that allow the virus to bind more easily and enter human cells.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

The presenting signs and symptoms of the Arcturus variant are similar to those of previous strains of the virus. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Cold.

  • Loss of taste sensation (ageusia).

  • Loss of smell (anosmia).

  • Fatigue.

  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea).

  • Muscle pain.

  • Sore throat.

  • Headache.

  • Congestion of nose.

  • Nausea or vomiting.

  • Diarrhea.

In addition, some people infected with the Omicron variant may experience more severe symptoms, such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). These severe symptoms are more likely to occur in individuals who are unvaccinated or have underlying health conditions.

Some recent studies also suggest a new symptom. There have been reports of conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye," in some people infected with the Arcturus variant. It can cause redness, swelling, itching, a burning sensation, and discharge from the eye. The virus can spread through respiratory droplets or on contact with contaminated surfaces, and the virus can enter the eyes through the mucous membranes, thus resulting in various symptoms.

How Is the Arcturus Variant Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of this Omicron variant is similar to the previous strains. This includes:

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Testing: This is a highly sensitive test that detects the genetic material of the virus in the sample collected.

  • Antigen Testing: This is a rapid test that detects viral proteins.

  • Serological Testing: This test detects antibodies to the virus in the blood.

What Are the Treatment Options for the Arcturus Variant?

There is no evidence to suggest a need for new treatment options. Treatment for the Arcturus variant is similar to other viral strains and focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing complications. These include:

  • Medications: Antiviral medicines like Remdesivir or anti-inflammatory medications like Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen may be prescribed to relieve the pain, fever, and cough.

  • Oxygen Therapy: In severe cases of COVID-19, oxygen therapy is a vital tool to improve the functioning of lungs.

  • Vaccination: Vaccination is the best way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization from the Arcturus variant and other strains of the virus.

It is important to note that treatment for the Arcturus variant is still being studied and may change as more information becomes available.

How Is the Arcturus Variant Being Monitored?

The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the public health department are tracking the spread of the Arcturus variant and taking measures to control its transmission. These measures include increased testing and contact tracing, quarantine and isolation of infected individuals, and vaccination campaigns.

What Are the Measures to Be Taken to Prevent the Infection?

Preventing the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus requires similar measures to prevent other strains of the virus. Here are some steps to prevent the infection:

  • Getting Vaccinated: Vaccination against COVID-19 is the best way to protect against the virus, including the Omicron XBB.1.16 variant. This prevents hospitalization and death from the virus.

  • Wearing a Mask: Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor settings can help prevent the spread of the virus.

  • Social Distancing: Staying away from others and avoiding large gatherings can help reduce the spread of the virus.

  • Maintaining Hand Hygiene: Washing one’s hands frequently or using hand sanitizer can help kill the virus and prevent the infection.

  • Improving Ventilation: This can be done by opening windows and doors, using fans, or installing air purifiers.

It is important to get tested if there are any symptoms to aid in early diagnosis and treatment.


It is worth noting that the Arcturus variant is still evolving, and more research is needed to fully understand its characteristics and potential impact on public health. Public health officials and medical professionals are closely monitoring the situation and taking steps to limit the spread of the variant.

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Last reviewed at:
17 May 2023  -  4 min read




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