All About Covid XE Variant: What We Know So Far

XE is a cross between Omicron’s two most well-known strains, BA.1 (original strain) and BA.2 (the more infectious strain).

New Delhi: 

A person in Gujarat was found with a new COVID-19 variant, XE, recently. One incidence of another variant, XM, too, had been discovered in the state. Before that, in India, the first case of the XE variant was reported from Mumbai a few days ago but the Health Ministry had denied the report, saying that the “evidence does not suggest the presence of the new variant”.

What do we know about the XE variant so far?

XE is a cross between Omicron’s two most well-known strains, BA.1 (original strain) and BA.2 (the more infectious strain). It was first detected in the UK on January 19, 2022, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). As of March 29, 2022, “approximately 600 sequences have been reported and confirmed”.

In an April 5 report, WHO also stated that as part of the Omicron variant, the XE recombinant was being tracked. According to preliminary estimates, XE has a community growth rate advantage of 1.1 (or a 10 per cent transmission advantage) over BA.2. This, however, has to be confirmed.

The WHO states in the report, “The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to evolve. Given the current high level of transmission worldwide, it is likely that further variants, including recombinants, will continue to emerge. Recombination is common among coronaviruses and is regarded as an expected mutational event.”

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), too, released an updated analysis of recombinant COVID-19 variants. In a statement, Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, UKHSA said that XE was a recombinant variant, which meant it was a hybrid of two strains previously identified. That implied the new recombinant variant picked up traits from each strain, but always didn’t turn into a more dangerous version. So far, 637 cases of XE have been confirmed in the UK.

Should you be worried?

Professor Hopkins added that it was, however, not a surprise that a new combination strain has just emerged. “Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence, particularly when there are several variants in circulation, and several have been identified over the course of the pandemic to date. As with other kinds of variants, most will die off relatively quickly,” she said.

Also, though the XE variant has been around since January, the fact that there are still so few cases is encouraging. When Omicron was discovered, it spread like wildlife viral in a matter of weeks.

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