Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 could be dominant in Europe soon: Report


The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Friday said that Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 which now accounts for a quarter of US Covid-19 cases could become the dominant strain in Europe within a few months, according to the news agency AFP. 

It also stated that mathematical modelling suggested the subvariant, which is the most transmissible to date, could become the dominant variant in the European Union “after one to two months, given the current low proportions reported in the EU/EEA and its estimated growth rate”.

However, the risk associated with the variant was estimated to be low for general population, the EU’s health agency said. 

For vulnerable individuals such as the elderly or non-vaccinated people, the risk is moderate to high, it added. 

The health agency also noted that “several knowledge gaps” existed, meaning the assessment was subject to change in the light of more evidence, as per AFP reports. 

According to ECDC, the subvariant now accounts for more than 27 percent of infections in the United States, and XBB.1.5 was still responsible for fewer than 2.5 percent of Covid-19 cases in the EU in the last weeks of 2022. 

“There are currently no signals that the infection severity of XBB.1.5 is different to that of previously circulating omicron sub-lineages,” the agency said, adding that around 38 countries have reported XBB.1.5 cases.

In a rapid risk assessment on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that of these 38 countries, 82 percent are in the Unites States, 8 percent in Britain and 2 percent in Denmark, AFP reported. 

The virologists said that the subvariant is very similar to its predecessor, XBB.1, but has an additional mutation to its spike protein — the key that allows the virus into the body’s cells.

It was first detected in 2022 and has rapidly become a global concern. 

 

(With AFP inputs)

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