The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed the latest COVID-19 variant, EG.5.1, simply known as ERIS, on its radar as cases started picking up in the US and UK. In India, as of now, there has been only one reported case of the EG.5.1 variant, identified in Pune in May 2023. However, experts say while the WHO has categorised EG.5.1 as a variant under monitoring on July 19 this year, at this point of time there is no need to panic. They have made a strong case for research into developing variant-specific vaccine boosters and pan-Coronavirus vaccines, preferably nasal ones, that need to be scaled up.
So what is ERIS?
The SARS-CoV-2 variant EG.5.1 (alias XBB.188.8.131.52.1), is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant XBB.1.9.2. It has two additional spike mutations (Q52H, F456L) compared to its parent strain lineage. It has been detected in 39 countries and 38 US states, said Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, Professor and Head, Department of Microbiology, B J Government Medical College, Pune. “ERIS is not an official term but used for simplicity. The variant EG.5.1. is a descendent of the XBB variant and seems to have some growth advantage contributing to increase in proportion of SARS-COV-2 infections in most regions of the world,” said Dr Sanjay Pujari , Director, Institute of Infectious Diseases, Pune.