SA finds its first case of the most transmissible Covid variant

SA has found its first case of a new Covid-19 variant.

Rehman Asad/NurPhoto via Getty Images


South Africa has detected its first case of coronavirus infection caused by the new, highly transmissible variant XBB.1.5.

Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead at the World Health Organization, this week called XBB.1.5 “the most transmissible subvariant” discovered so far in the pandemic.

Dubbed the “Kraken variant” by some because of its proliferation, no significant differences in severity have been identified between cases caused by XBB.1.5 and those caused by other variants. The WHO is planning an updated risk assessment of the variant in the coming days.

The variant was discovered in gene sequencing performed by researchers at Stellenbosch University on a Dec. 27 sample, Tulio de Oliveira, head of a gene sequencing institute at the university, said on Twitter.

XBB.1.5 has quickly become the dominant strain in the US and has been detected in at least 28 other countries, according to the WHO.

It has yet to be identified in China, which is currently experiencing a surge in infections after easing tight controls that have limited the impact of previous Covid waves in the country. So far, there has been no impact on cases, hospitalizations or deaths in South Africa, de Oliveira said.

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