Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 could become the dominant strain in Europe within a few months, EU’s disease agency said. The subvariant now accounts for a quarter of US Covid cases while the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that mathematical modelling suggested that the subvariant 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”.
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The subvariant is regarded as the most transmissible to date. The health body said that the risk associated with the subvariant was estimated to be low. However, the “risk is moderate to high for vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and non-vaccinated and immunocompromised people”.
The agency also said that “several knowledge gaps” existed in its assessment which could change in light of more evidence.
The subvariant now accounts for almost 43 percent of infections in the United States but it was still responsible for fewer than 2.5 percent of Covid cases in the EU in December. Thirty-eight countries have reported XBB.1.5 cases.
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“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.
The subvariant is very similar to XBB.1 but has an additional mutation to its spike protein.