Covid XBB Variant: New Covid variant could be behind fresh spike in India | Pune News
According to an international platform tracking Covid variants, the highest number of this sublineage’s sequences have come from India (48), followed by Brunei (22), the United States (15) and Singapore (14).
According to reports, this subvariant is showing a big jump in prevalence in at least four countries, including India. Experts tracking the Covid variants around the world have found the XBB.1.16 spreading rapidly in some regions.
“In India, XBB.1.16 is showing a high prevalence in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, as per covSPECTRUM. XBB.1.16 has not descended from XBB.1.5, but both have descended from the recombinant ancestor XBB and more recently XBB.1. XBB is currently dominating in India, and the latest uptick in cases in the country could be a result of XBB.1.16 and perhaps XBB.1.5, but a few more sample runs would clear the picture,” a top expert from India’s genome sequencing network said.
“Most strains isolated from Indian travellers to Singapore, the US and Brunei recently have been XBB.1.16. So, this subvariant could be driving the ongoing spike in cases in India. It is also possible that XBB.1.16 may have originated in India,” the expert said, adding that XBB.1.16 could eventually dominate all other SARS-CoV-2 circulating variants.
According to covSPECTRUM, a platform that accesses GISAID data and helps scientists identify variants of SARS-CoV-2, India currently has 48 sequenced samples of this sublineage. According to it, as many as 39 sequenced samples of the sublineage are from Maharashtra, eight are from Gujarat and one from UP.
Dr Vipin M Vashishtha, the member of WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net who has been tracking new Covid variants during the pandemic, told TOI, “The previous XBB.1 descendant, XBB.1.5, had become dominant across the globe but not in India. But there is some worry about XBB.1.16 globally because it has certain mutations in the non-spike region of the virus: two ORF9b mutations. ORF9b has been implicated in efficient immune evasion.”
Infectious diseases expert Dr Sanjay Pujari, a member of India’s national Covid-19 task force, said, “Not much information is yet available on XBB.1.16’s relative immune escape properties and ability to cause severe illness as compared to other Omicron sub-lineages.”