Thailand finds 3 new subvariants, 4th in Hong Kong from Thai travellers

PHOTO: Three new subvariants have been found in Thailand, with a fourth found in Hong Kong in travellers from Thailand. (via Healiio)

Three new Covid-19 subvariants have been found within Thailand’s borders according to Thai scientists. The global scientific community believes that the subvariants in the group found in the kingdom will become the dominant strains of Covid within the next few months. A separate strain, XBB, was found in three passengers from Thailand in Hong Kong, despite the variant not being identified in the kingdom yet.

The BF.7, BN.1, and BA.2.75.2 subvariants were found through genomic surveillance in studies conducted by Ramathibodi Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics. They were found in samples that were gathered from people within Thailand, though not in big numbers according to the National News Bureau of Thailand.

There was only one case of the BN.1 subvariant found, two people infected with the BF.7 subvariant, and three infections of the B.2.75.2 strain. The three strains are all related as part of a subvariant group of the Omicron variant that swept the world previously. These are newer strains from a group that also includes the BQ.1.1, BA.2.3.30, and XBB subvariants, the last of which was recently found in Hong Kong in travellers from Thailand.

The Department of Disease Control is pursuing information through International Health Regulations about those travellers. Few details have been released about the three passengers, including if they were Thai natives or foreigners and if they were originating in Thailand or just passing through in transit.

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Hong Kong has found 29 XBB infections so far, with 24 of them caught upon entry at the international airport. The remaining five were identified within two days of their arrival into the special administrative region. The majority of those infected were from Singapore where Covid infections have nearly quadrupled in the past week and are predicted to rise to double or triple agaishortlyre.

The XBB strain found in those Thai passengers has not yet been uncovered within Thailand’s borders, and authorities are stepping up efforts to detect it. Health officials have ordered samples be taken from travellers from Hong Kong, Singapore, and other XBB-infected nations. And Thai PBS World reported that international airports are increasing general monitoring.

These new subvariants have between 200 and 2,000 infections in the GISAID database that tracks the pandemic worldwide, but scientists believe they will surpass the BA.5 subvariant as the dominant strain soon. They worry most about the ultra-resistant BA. and BF.7 strains. Those subvariants have been proliferating in Asia, Europe, and North America and are worrisome because they evade antibody treatments, vaccines, and previous infections.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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