YOUth should know: The XBB.1.5 COVID-19 subvariant and its transmissibility
4 things about the new variant that was first detected in October 2022.
Since Omicron was first discovered in November 2021, many different subvariants of it have been reported all over the world.
The latest on this list is the XBB.1.5 subvariant, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) said “appears to be growing quickly in some geographies”.
Here are 4 things youths should know about this new subvariant:
1. What the XBB.1.5 variant is
According to WHO, XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and was first discovered in October 2022.
XBB.1.5 is a sublineage of XBB, a recombinant, or fusion, of two BA.2 sublineages, which are both sublineages of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Transmission of XBB.1.5, along with other respiratory viruses and variants of COVID-19, are expected to increase due to the holiday period.
2. How XBB.1.5 differs from previous variants
WHO announced that XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible subvariant that has been detected as of Jan 4.
It is highly transmissible due to the mutations within this subvariant of Omicron which allow it to adhere to the cell and replicate easily.
WHO says that it is concerned that the more it spreads, the more chances it has to change and mutate.
There is currently no data on the severity of XBB.1.5, but WHO says that there is no indication that severity has changed with this new subvariant.
3. Countries where XBB.1.5 has been detected since Jan 4
XBB.1.5 has been detected in 29 countries, including the United States (US), South Korea, Australia and the United Kingdom. It is quickly replacing other subvariants in circulation in some of these countries.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it made up about 27.6 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the US as of Jan 7.
4. How current vaccines fare against XBB.1.5
Similar to XBB, XBB.1.5 is shown to have immune escape, meaning it can escape detection from a person’s immune system.
However, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 at WHO, said that “countermeasures continue to work”.
WHO reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses, to protect against hospitalisation, severe disease and death.