XE variant of Covid-19: What do we know about this highly transmissible strain
A new variant of Coronavirus is making headlines these days, often in relation to looming new wave and supposed symptoms to watch out for this new strain of SARS CoV-2 virus. The first case of new Omicron variant, XE was detected on April 6, 2022 in Mumbai out of 230 cases of Covid-19. Labelled as ‘more transmissible’ by the WHO [World Health Organisation], XE variant is recombinant – a hybrid mutation of two previous variants of Omicron, BA.1 and BA.2.
The concerns are on peak over looming fourth wave in India, but is XE a variant of concern? Top virologist Dr. Gagandeep Kang of Christian Medical College in Vellore suggests that the XE variant is not a reason to panic, at least not yet, as its severity is not more than that of other variants of Omicron, even though it is at least 10 per cent more transmissible.
This new strain of Omicron variant of Covid-19 was first detected on January 19, 2022 in the United Kingdom. Since then about 600 cases of XE have been confirmed. “This new variant is a recombinant strain, meaning it is a mutant hybrid of the two previous versions of the Omicron variant, BA.1 and BA.2, which has spread across the world when it first became a variant of concern,” the WHO has said in a warning.
What is a Recombinant strain?
Recombinant strain can emerge when multiple variants of a virus infect the same person at the same time. This allows the variants to interact in the host body as they replicate leading to mixing of genetic material and emergence of new combinations. At present there are three hybrid or recombinant viruses detected – XD, XE, XF. Combinations of Delta and BA.1 variant are XD and XF. The third is XE variant.
Officials have noted that XE variant is about 10 per cent more transmissible that BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron variant. It is to be noted that till now BA.2 has been deemed as the most contagious variant of Covid-19.
WHO has noted that till they are able to detect “significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, XE will remain categorised as a part of the Omicron variant.” The report added, “WHO continues to closely monitor and assess the public health risk associated with recombinant variants, alongside other SARS-CoV-2 variants, and will provide updates as further evidence becomes available”.