​XBB cases double in 1 week, set to be dominant Covid strain | India News

PUNE: Covid infections caused by Omicron’s newly identified XBB strain have nearly doubled in the past week in India, experts said on Sunday, adding that it is likely that the recombinant will become the dominant subvariant in the country within a month.
XBB cases in India were 71 till October 14 but jumped to 136 on October 23.
First detected worldwide this August in a Kolkata sample, experts and WHO say XBB is possibly the most immune-evasive subvariant so far, having spread to 26 countries and triggering fresh Covid surges in Singapore and Bangladesh.
But while XBB is at least as transmissible as other strains, including BA.5 and BA.2.75, the Singapore government says there is no evidence it causes more severe illness.
In India, eight states have so far reported XBB: Tamil Nadu (52 cases), Odisha (35), West Bengal (17), Maharashtra (17), Delhi (6), Karnataka (6), Gujarat (2) and Rajasthan (1).
Scientists with India’s genome surveillance network, INSACOG, said BA.2.75 was still the lead strain but fast losing that position. BA.2.75 prevalence in samples is down to 70% from 88% last week. In September, this subvariant was responsible for 93% of India’s Covid infections.
In India, scientists said currently XBB is being detected in some 20% of cases. BA.2 subvariant is in 7% of cases and prevalence of BA.5 is down to less than 3%. Last week, India detected a BQ.1 infection in a Pune sample. It remains the only detection of the subvariant so far.
“XBB is moving ahead and reducing the share of BA.2.75. Most samples in the latest run in West Bengal and Delhi had only XBB in them,” said a senior INSACOG scientist. INSACOG is a government-established consortium of 54 laboratories to monitor genomic variations.
Canada and England are also starting to report a rise in XBB infections, according to data from GISAID, an international research organisation that tracks changes in the virus.
Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, coordinator for genome sequencing in Maharashtra, said: “GISAID data shows the largest concentration of XBB and its spinoff variants (XBB.1, XBB.2 and XBB.3) in Singapore, followed by India, Bangladesh, the US, Australia and Denmark.” Singapore’s government has said XBB cases could peak mid-November.
Experts said XBB is racing Omicron variant BQ.1.1 to become the “most immune-evasive variant”, surpassing shared ancestor BA.5 that was dominant worldwide this summer.

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