MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines has confirmed its first case of omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, which is spreading around the world, according to the Department of Health.
Based on the agency's latest COVID-19 biosurveillance report, the case of XBB.1.16 was detected in Western Visayas.
Dubbed "Arcturus" on social media, the new COVID-19 offshoot is a descendent lineage of XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages.
The World Health Organization designated the XBB.1.16 as variant of interest or VOI last week following a sustained increase in its prevalence.
So far, the XBB.1.16 has been reported in 33 countries and has been mostly documented in India.
"The variant was initially flagged due to its increasing global prevalence and for having mutations which may lead to increase in infectivity or pathogenicity," the DOH report said.
"However, currently available evidence for XBB.1.16 does not suggest any differences in disease severity and/or clinical manifestations compared to the original omicron variant," it added.
To date, the global risk assessment for XBB.1.16 is low compared to XBB.1.5 and other currently circulating variants, the WHO also said.
"Available information does not suggest that XBB.1.16 has additional public health risk relative to XBB.1.5 and the other currently circulating omicron descendent lineages," the WHO said in its initial risk assessment on April 17.
"However, XBB.1.16 may become dominant in some countries and cause a rise in case incidence due to its growth advantage and immune escape characteristics."
In the US, XBB.1.16 accounted for 9.6 percent of COVID-19 cases last week, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.
The XBB.1.5 is still the dominant strain there, comprising 73.6 percent of new virus cases.
The DOH biosurveillance report also revealed that health authorities had detected 84 other offshoots of omicron.
Some 38 were classified as XBB, including 13 XBB.1.5 cases and 14 XBB.1.9.1 cases; 28 as BA.2.3.20; 12 as BA.5, including 2 BQ.1 cases; 3 as XBC; and 3 as other omicron sublineages.
Results of the samples sequenced by the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center Visayas, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and San Lazaro Hospital were released on April 12 to 17.