Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 found in HCM City

April 14, 2023 - 14:09
A new variant of Omicron called XBB.1.5, a variant of interest (VOI), has been detected in HCM City, according to the city’s Department of Health.
Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, a variant of interest (VOI), has been detected in HCM City. — Photo

HCM CITY — A new variant of Omicron called XBB.1.5, a variant of interest (VOI), has been detected in HCM City, according to the city’s Department of Health.

The department on Friday (April 14) announced that the COVID-19 sub-variant XBB.1.5 was found among positive COVID-19 cases reported in the first quarter of this year.

From January 11 to March 20, a COVID-19 research team of the HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) took samples of positive cases for testing and gene sequencing.

Of the samples collected, two were infected with sub-variant BA.5, followed by one with BA.2.75, one with XBB.1 and one with XBB.1.5.

The World Health Organisation has now classified XBB.1.5 as a variant of interest (VOI) which must be closely monitored.

There are seven other strains belonging to the group of Variant Being Monitored (VBM), including BA.2.75, CH.1.1, BQ.1, XBF, XBB, XBB.1.16 and XBB.1.9.1.

VOI is identified to have a growth advantage over other circulating variants in more than one WHO region with increasing relative prevalence alongside an increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.

XBB.1.5 is a descendent of XBB, which is a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages.

From October 22, 2022 to February 21, 2023, 45,193 sequences of the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant have appeared in 74 countries.

Most of these sequences are from the US (72.2 per cent). Other countries include the UK (7.3 per cent), Canada (5 per cent), Germany (2.7 per cent), Austria (1.8 per cent), Denmark (1.1 per cent), and France (1 per cent).

Based on its genetic characteristics and available growth rate estimates, XBB.1.5 is likely to further contribute to increases in case incidence globally.

There is strong evidence for increased risk of transmission and moderate strength of evidence for immune escape.

The number of cases associated with XBB.1.5 is still low in many countries, and from reports by several countries, no early signals of changes or increases in severity have been observed.

At this time, because there is limited data currently available globally, a full assessment of the severity of XBB.1.5 cannot yet be confidently made.

Taken together, available information does not suggest that XBB.1.5 has additional public health risk relative to the other currently circulating Omicron descendant lineages.

XBB.1.5 has appeared in 94 countries. More than 47 per cent of COVID-19 cases in March in the world were infected with XBB.1.5, according to WHO.

From the beginning of March until now, on average, the city reported one new COVID-19 case daily.

The city witnessed a slight increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with 10 new infections reported on Wednesday and Thursday.

The HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases is currently treating 12 COVID-19 patients, with no serious cases requiring mechanical ventilation.

However, the city’s Department of Health recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone, especially children aged 12-17 years old and those at high risk of COVID-19 infections.

A report from the Ministry of Health’s infectious disease surveillance system showed that the number of new COVID-19 cases nationwide is on the rise again.

The ministry has warned that there is a high risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the country overlapping existing diseases, including dengue fever, influenza, and hand, foot, and mouth disease. — VNS