Covid variant EG.5: What we know about ‘Eris’
Context- After more than three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization ended the global public health emergency on May 5, 2023.
But at the same time, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID, had not been fully defeated, that it continued to circulate in the world and that we could still see the emergence of new and more dangerous variants.
What is the variant?
- There is a new COVID variant: EG.5, also known as Eris. We just don’t know whether it’s more dangerous than previous variants yet.
- The WHO has classified the EG.5 as a Variant of Interest (VOI).
- Variants of Concern are those whose characteristics have a significant influence on the spread of the virus — because of higher rates of contagion and rising infection rates, or an increase in severe cases of the illness and COVID mortality rates.
- 5 is one of three variants on the WHO’s watchlist. The other two are XBB.1.5, which is largely circulating in Europe and the Americas, and XBB.1.16, which is predominant in Asia.
Eris is just a nickname for EG.5
- Ryan Gregory, an Canadian evolutionary biologist based at the University of Guelph, Ontario, has studied the subtype EG.5.1 (Ed.: note the added “.1” which indicates this is the first version of EG.5) and posted a comment on its nickname, Eris.
- Eris is also the name of one of the largest dwarf planets in our solar system — Eris is the Greek goddess of chaos.
How has EG.5 spread so far?
- The WHO classified EG.5 as a VOI due to rising infection rates attributed to the variant, the fact that it spreads fast and its ability of so-called “immune escape”.
- 5 is a descendent lineage of XBB. 1.9.2. It has an additional spike mutation that may explain why it can escape the human immune system’s response.
- That’s according to the Neherlab research group, based at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland. In a Neherlab variant report posted at the end of June 2023, EG.5 was already described as the “fastest growing lineage with significant circulation” in the world.
- The report said that EG.5 “might also be a slightly beneficial mutation.”
Why we still have to ‘keep an eye’ on COVID
- At the end of July, Van Kerkhoven, WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19 said “[w]e aren’t seeing the same level of impact in terms of hospitalizations and deaths because people are protected largely from vaccination but also from past infection, so we have some immunity that has been built up.”
- Going Forward , it’s important that nations continue to report COVID-related mortality rates, hospitalizations, cases requiring intensive. But in July, only a quarter of all nations provided the WHO with death rates, and only 11% of nations provided data on severe cases.
- Continuing sequencing is also vital, said Van Kerkhove: “make no mistake, the virus has not gone away.”
- It is, however, as yet unclear whether EG.5 caused the most recent rise in COVID cases. US-based physician and scientist Eric Topol said in a post that while it was important to “track the evolution” of the virus, there was “no clear [cause] and effect relationship with the current (small) increases in wastewater, cases, hospitalizations
Syllabus- Prelims; Current Affairs
Source- Indian Express