Bulgaria’s National Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (NCIPD) said on January 20 that it has found the Omicron coronavirus strain in each of the 87 samples taken from Covid-19 patients in the country.
NCIPD said that the samples, taken over a period of time ranging from December 9 to January 11 in 10 out of Bulgaria’s 28 districts, showed a wide distribution of Omicron descendent lineages, confirming earlier findings that the BA.5 lineage and its subvariants, which NCIPD collectively referred to as BA.5.x, was no longer the dominant one in the country.
The lineage was the main driver of the global coronavirus wave in the second half of 2022. Initially detected in South Africa in January 2022, BA.5 is categorised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a variant of concern lineage under monitoring.
BA.5.x was found in 14 cases or 16.1 per cent of the total samples, compared to 32.4 per cent of the samples in the previous batch sequenced by NCIPD, the results of which were announced on January 6.
NCIPD’s latest sequencing dataset showed the BF.x lineage was present in 32 samples, including 20 cases of the BF.7 sub-lineage. It also found 23 cases of the BQ.x lineage and 10 cases of the BN.x lineage.
The remaining samples were one case each of the BA.2.3.20, BE.1.1, CL.1 and CP.1 subvariants, as well as four cases of the XBB.x lineage.
NCIPD said that it found the first instance of the XBB.1.5 subvariant, which the WHO is “observing with heightened attention, due to its potential for increased spreading and reduced neutralisation by vaccine or natural immunity compared to earlier variants of SARS-CoV-2,” according to its statement.
Last week, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a threat assessment brief that there was a “moderate probability of XBB.1.5 becoming dominant in the EU/EEA and causing a substantial increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within the next one to two months.”
XBB.1.5 is a sub-lineage of XBB, which evolved from two earlier lineages of Omicron, with an additional spike change, the ECDC said. It is currently designated as a variant of interest by the ECDC, a step below the variants of concern, such as BA.2 or BA.5.
As of January 16, three patients in the NCIPD sample group had died, nine were in hospital and 15 were undergoing home treatment, with 59 recovered and one case categorised as unknown, NCIPD said.
(Photo: Military Medical Academy)
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