London, Europe Brief News – A new Covid-19 variant, XBB.1.5, is spreading rapidly in dozens of countries around the world.
The World Health Organisation( WHO) earlier raised concern calling it the “most transmissible subvariant detected yet”.
Here are more information about the new variant:
What is XBB.1.5?
XBB.1.5 is a sub-variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus Omicron strain, the most transmissible variant of concern (VOC) to date.
The spread of Omicron early last year led to record number of infections worldwide.
Unofficially named Kraken, XBB.1.5 is a sublineage of XBB – a combination of two strains of the subvariant BA.2. It was first detected in October 2022 in the US.
XBB.1.5 has been circulating in at least 38 countries, including Canada, Australia, Kuwait, Germany and France.
Is XBB.1.5 more infectious?
On January 4, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said XBB.1.5 is the “most transmissible subvariant detected yet”.
“The reasons for this are the mutations that are within this subvariant of Omicron allowing this virus to adhere to the cell and replicate easily,” she added.
SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has continued to mutate since it emerged three years ago. Scientists have struggled to contain the coronavirus as it has constantly mutated – meaning it changed its genetic code. Mutations also meant the virus could evade immune systems and vaccines.
According to experts, a mutation known as F486p gives Kraken a greater advantage than XBB, allowing it to better attach to the ACE2 receptor in cells – a process through which COVID-19 spreads in humans.
Symptoms of the subvariant are similar to previous Omicron strains including congestion, runny nose and fever.
Can XBB.1.5 lead to more serious disease?
Currently, the WHO has said there is no definitive evidence that Kraken will lead to more severe disease than its predecessors.
An internal risk assessment published by the UN agency on January 11 indicated XBB.1.5 did not “carry any mutation known to be associated with a potential change in severity”. However, it asserted that severity assessments were continuing.
Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph in Canada told Al Jazeera that it can be difficult to determine if a variant is more severe because there were “multiple variants circulating in the same place”.