The Philippines has reported one case of the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

The Department of Health (DOH) said at least 196 Omicron XBB subvariant including one case classified as XBB.1.5 were detected from the 1,078 samples sequenced by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) last January 30 to February 3, 2023.

The DOH added that all XBB infections were discovered in all regions except Region 8 and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The XBB.1.5 is classified as an offshoot of the XBB subvariant and a Variant of Interest, due to its “increasing prevalence globally and enhanced immune evading properties,” the DOH said, quoting the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“However, currently available evidence for XBB.1.5 does not suggest any differences in disease severity and/or clinical manifestations compared to the original Omicron variant,” the DOH said.

 “Currently, the subvariant is still reported under XBB by the WHO and will remain classified under Omicron until sufficient evidence arises showing that the virus characteristics are significantly different from Omicron,” it added.


Ronald Espartinez