‘Kraken’ may soon become dominant Covid variant in UK: health chiefs warn of XBB.1.5 – and flag ANOTHER nickname ‘Orthrus’
The ‘Kraken’ Covid variant could soon become the dominant Covid strain in the UK, health chiefs warned today.
XBB.1.5 – a spin-off from Omicron – is regarded as the most transmissible strain to date, and has become extremely popular in the US in recent weeks.
Experts from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the strain, which accounted for 4.5 per cent of cases between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, is the next variant ‘most likely to predominate in the UK’.
And they expressed concern CH.1.1 – nicknamed ‘Orthrus’, a mythical two-headed dog – could soon become dominant as well.
Figures from the Sanger Institute, one of the UK’s largest Covid surveillance centres, show that 4 per cent of cases in the week to December 17 were caused by XBB.1.5 (shown in purple, bottom right)
Cases are estimated to have doubled in December, just as the XBB.1.5 ‘Kraken’ variant started sweeping Britain. Analysts say nearly three million people had the virus during the holiday week
The graph shows weekly hospital admissions per 100,000 people for Covid (red) and flu (blue). Surveillance figures from the UK Health Security Agency showed Covid admissions fell from 12 to 11 per 100,000 people, while admissions fell to 8 per 100,000 in the week to January 1
NHS data shows that an average of 995 Covid patients were admitted to hospitals across England in the week to January 2. The figures suggest that the number of people seeking NHS care because of the virus peaked on average just before Christmas and has been on a downward trend since
The warning comes despite experts claiming this week that fears of the ‘Kraken’ Covid variant could be exaggerated.
UKHSA experts wrote in a technical briefing: ‘CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5 are currently the variants most likely to predominate in the UK after BQ.1 unless new new variants emerge.
“It is plausible that XBB.1.5 will cause an increase in incidence after the current wave, but it is currently too early to confirm this trajectory.”
XBB.1.5 has been given mutations, including F486P, that help it evade Covid-fighting antibodies generated in response to vaccination or previous infection.
Another change – S486P – would improve its ability to bind to cells.
The UKHSA said: ‘The growth advantage of XBB.1.5. is biologically plausible given the combination of immune escape properties and ACE-2 affinity expected from available laboratory data.’