The Emergence of New SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariants XBB in Bangladesh

From 10 September to 14 October 2022, icddr,b sequenced 92 SARS-CoV-2 genomes and found that the virus is still changing over time.

  • During the first two weeks (from 10 September to 23 September), Omicron BA.2 (84%) and BA.5 (16%) were identified (Figure 1).
  • Interestingly, most of these subvariants were replaced by a new subvariant XBB which constituted 85% (41 out of 48) of the viruses circulating across the country during the last three weeks (from 24 September to 14 October).
  • Another new subvariant BM.1.1.1 (n=2) was also identified during this period.
  • The XBB has already caused a remarkable surge of COVID-19 in Singapore and arrived in at least 17 countries including India, the USA, Australia and Hong Kong.

Figure 1: Weekly distribution of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants in Dhaka city from 1 Jan 2021 to 14 Oct 2022. The bar graph (Y-axis) indicates the % of variants identified, and numbers are printed inside.

Clinical features of XBB-infected patients were available for 32 patients; male 18 and female 14.

  • Most of them (78%) had mild to moderate symptoms. Six had severe symptoms and were hospitalized
  • Fever (66%), cough (50%), headache (44%), body aches and pains (41%), runny nose (37%) and weakness (37%) were the most common complaints
  • 91% received at least 2 doses of vaccines
  • Reinfection was identified in 15 patients (47%)

The emergence of Omicron XBB in Bangladesh should be monitored cautiously, and effective measures should be taken to reduce the transmission of this new variant to prevent any new wave in the country. Although the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Bangladesh at present is modest, considering the emergence of the new variant, everyone should practice the following precautions to keep safe from COVID-19.

  • Vaccination is key; get vaccinated
  • Keep wearing a well-fitted facemask
  • Maintain physical distancing, even though vaccinated or naturally infected
  • Wash hands with soap and water frequently.