The World Health Organization has categorized the COVID strain Epsilon.5, or “Eris,” as a variant of interest, suggesting it poses a similar global risk as the existing variants.
It is anticipated that by the end of September, reformulated COVID vaccines will be available in the United States, potentially offering improved protection against this variant.
The WHO is closely monitoring the Epsilon.5 or “Eris” variant of COVID-19, which is responsible for increasing cases in countries including China and the United States. This variant has been labeled as a “variant of interest” by the WHO, indicating that it will be closely studied for changes that could make it more severe.
Based on current evidence, the organization suggests that this variant presents a lower global public health risk compared to other variants in circulation. In May, the WHO emphasized that COVID-19 is now a “well-established and ongoing health issue that no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
Symptoms and Spread:
Eris displays symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, exhaustion, runny nose, and changes in taste and odour that are comparable to those of earlier iterations.
WHO’s risk assessment published on Wednesday stated, “While Epsilon.5 has shown increased transmissibility, developmental benefits, and resistance to neutralization, no change has been observed in the severity of the disease.”
It is suggested that these attributes may make the variant more effective in certain countries or on a global scale.
The official name of the variant is EG.5, while “Eris” is an informal nickname given online. It later popularized EG.5.1, a subvariant.
By August 7, based on data provided to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the largest share of Epsilon.5 cases was identified in China, followed by the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Canada.
Its presence was also noted in Australia, Singapore, the UK, France, Portugal, and Spain.
According to disease control and prevention centers, Epsilon.5 is now a major concern in the United States, accounting for 17.3% of cases until the end of the week on August 5th.
It comes as part of the effort to develop new COVID vaccines targeting the XBB variant in this fall, which emerged from Omicron.
Novavax has stated that its vaccine “generates an effective neutralizing response against XBB variant, including subvariants XBB.1.5, XBB.1.16, and XBB.2.3.”
EG.5 is a lineage that shares a spike amino acid profile with XBB.1.5.
Justin Lessler, a professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said via email, “EG.5 is a part of the XBB lineage and is more closely related to the XBB variant than past vaccine targets.”
As a result, it is envisaged that new vaccines that become available in the hereafter would provide protection that is better than that provided by earlier immunisations (EG. 5).
According to CDC Director Mandi Cohen, there is an expectation that new vaccines will be available in the US by the end of September, as responsibility for vaccine distribution has been shifted to the private sector.