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Unmasking the ‘Eris’ Variant: The Hidden Threat Behind the Surge in COVID Cases

Unmasking the ‘Eris’ Variant: The Hidden Threat Behind the Surge in COVID Cases The global landscape is witnessing a resurgence of COVID infections and hospitalizations across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. At the forefront of this worrisome trend is the EG.5 “Eris” coronavirus, a subvariant stemming from the Omicron lineage that first emerged in November 2021.

Deciphering the ‘Eris’ Variant

Termed “Eris” by some, the EG.5 variant has been designated a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO). This classification underscores the need for heightened monitoring due to mutations that might potentially increase its transmissibility or severity. However, the WHO clarifies that, currently, there is no indication of EG.5 posing a greater threat to public health than other variants, and no concrete evidence linking it to an escalation in disease severity.

Rapid Dissemination of ‘Eris’

As of August 8, the EG.5 variant has spread across more than 50 countries, as reported by the WHO. It holds the distinction of being the predominant and fastest-growing COVID-19 subvariant within the U.S., accounting for approximately 17% of ongoing COVID cases, as indicated by the CDC.

Unmasking the 'Eris' Variant: The Hidden Threat Behind the Surge in COVID Cases
 A general view of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta Image Credit : Yahoo

While COVID-19-related hospitalizations have risen by over 40% from the recent lows observed in June, they remain significantly below the peak levels recorded during the Omicron outbreak in January 2022, according to CDC data. Concurrently, the viral load detected in wastewater nationwide and the number of weekly prescriptions for the COVID treatment Paxlovid have both exhibited substantial increases over the past month, albeit from a low baseline.

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Anticipating the Arrival of the New Booster

Leading pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer/BioNTech SE, Moderna, and Novavax have diligently developed updated versions of their vaccines specifically tailored to target another sublineage of the Omicron variant – XBB.1.5. This strategic adjustment aims to align the vaccines more closely with the diverse circulating strains of the virus.

Although EG.5 shares similarities with XBB.1.5, the newer subvariant carries an additional mutation within its spike protein, the focal point of the vaccine’s targeting mechanism. XBB.1.5, which emerged in late 2022, remained responsible for more than 10% of infections as of August 5, as per estimates from the CDC.

While CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen did not explicitly address the Eris variant, she affirmed that the evolving viruses remain susceptible to vaccines, medications, and diagnostic tests. This assertion underscores the ongoing effectiveness of these crucial tools in combating the virus’s changing dynamics.

The Road Ahead

As the global community navigates through the challenges posed by the ‘Eris’ variant and its implications, vigilance and proactive measures continue to play a pivotal role. While the situation unfolds, the medical community remains dedicated to adapting strategies to address emerging variants and their potential impact on public health.



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