The XBB.1.5 sub-variant of the covid-19 virus, which now accounts for 90% of new cases in the US, is now the dominant sub-variant found in all genome sequencing in Gujarat.
Data shared by the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) shows that genome sequencing in the past 50 confirmed covid cases were traced to 37 – or 74% of the XBB.1 branch. Of these, 20 were XBB.1.5, 14 of XBB.1 and three of XBB.1.9.
Most of these cases were recorded in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Kutch districts, the analysis showed.
It is notable that the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) had indicated the presence of this sub-variant in 11 states of India and said that cases were on the rise. Even in Gujarat, XBB was the most prevalent sub-variant of Omicron in December. However, at that time, XBB.2 accounted for 35% of the cases, XBB.5 for 13% and XBB.1 for only 10%.
The rise of the sub-variant coincides with the spike in Covid cases in the state. On February 9, active cases had been at an all-time low at four. On Monday, active cases reached 81. The spike started in the last week of February. The state is also seeing a covid patient on a ventilator after a long period of time.
Allaying fears, city-based medics say it is too early to press alarm bells. According to Dr Urvesh Shah, professor and Head, Microbiology Department, GCS Medical College: “XBB variant is a recombinant of BA.2.10 and BA.2.75 sub-variants of Omicron, both of which were experienced by Gujarat earlier. Current data does not suggest there are substantial differences in disease severity for XBB infections. There is, however, evidence pointing to a higher reinfection risk, compared to other circulating Omicron sub-lineages.”
Experts also said that while there is nearly 100% coverage for both doses of Covid vaccines in the adult population in the state, the period for which neutralizing antibodies circulate in the blood is about four to six months.
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