A new strain of Covid-19 has been designated as a variant of interest by the World Health Organization, although the public health risk has been judged as low.
The variant, known as EG.5 or “Eris”, is related to an Omicron subvariant called XBB.1.9.2, and is growing in prevalence globally, with countries including the UK, China and US among those affected.
However, the WHO suggested the variant does not pose a particular threat.
Based on the available evidence, the public health risk posed by EG.5 is evaluated as low at the global level,” the agency said, adding that the risk appeared to be on a par with other circulating variants of interest.
“While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date,” the WHO added.
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said that while the variant was growing in prevalence and appeared to be better at evading the immune system, allowing it to outcompete other variants, there was no evidence that it caused more severe disease.