A Covid-19 variant dubbed “the kraken” could become one of the dominant strains in the UK, officials have said.
Experts have stressed that XBB.1.5 – a “sub lineage” of the Omicron variant – is not more dangerous than the original Omicron variant.
But the kraken and another variant from the “Omicron family”, known as CH.1.1, do have a “growth advantage” and could become the dominant variants in the UK, experts have said.
At present the dominant variant in the UK is another Omicron sub lineage known as BQ.1.
A new technical briefing from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) states that XBB.1.5 “remains at very low prevalence in the UK, so estimates of growth are highly uncertain”.
But it adds: “CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5 are currently the variants most likely to take over from BQ.1 as the next dominant variant in the UK, unless further novel variants arise.
“Neither have been designated as variants of concern by UKHSA.”
Dr Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UKHSA said: “Through our genomic surveillance we continue to see evolution of variants in the Omicron family.
“UKHSA is constantly monitoring the situation and working to understand the implications for public health.
“Vaccination remains our best defence against future Covid-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come forward and take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”