EG.5, aka Eris, is a sub-variant of XBB.1.9.2, and thus is part of the Omicron’ sub-lineage (1,2). It does not harbour the name XBB for the simple reason that it would require the addition of too many numbers afterward (3).
Omicron EG.5 was first detected in February and was designated as a variant of interest (VOI) last week by the World Health Organization joining XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.16 (3,4,5). Variants are classified “of interest” when they have genetic mutations that have the potential to change the virus’ ability to cause severe disease, be transmitted, evade antibodies, respond to treatment/vaccine or be detected (6).
So far, based on epidemiological studies, EG.5 seems to display the highest growth rate and is better at escaping antibodies compared to other active VOI. However, it does not seem to be associated with an increase in disease severity. As time goes on, we will have more real-world data to confirm this trend (7,8,9).
In Canada, EG.5 is thought to be circulating since May and has since quickly gained ground (2,3). EG.5 is now the dominant sub-variant in the U.S, in France and in Canada (2,9,10).
Whether or not EG.5 is driving the current increase in COVID-19 cases reported across the country is unknown (5,8,11). But it sure does remind us that new variants can arise at any time and quickly change the status quo.
Back to school is around the corner and fall is known to bring a resurgence of other respiratory viruses (12) – it’s a good time to re-up protection.
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to ensure you are up to date with the current vaccine recommendations, stay home when feeling sick and consider wearing a mask in higher-risk situations (5).
Stay tuned for a more in-depth COVID-19 round-up soon!