What is Omicron XE Variant Found in Mumbai and How Dangerous is it? Know What Experts Say

The Omicron XE variant is a recombinant of BA.1 and BA.2, the sub-lineages of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. The variant reportedly has three other mutations which were not there in Omicron or BA.1 or BA.2. 

Created On: Apr 7, 2022 10:34 ISTModified On: Apr 7, 2022 13:35 IST
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Representative Image

COVID-19 XE Variant Severity: India reported its first case of new COVID-19 Omicron XE variant on April 6, 2022 after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) confirmed that a 50-year-old woman with a travel history to South Africa may have been infected with the variant.  

The patient is a fully-vaccinated 50-year-old South African National, who had traveled to India on February 10th. She was found COVID-19 positive after a routine test on February 27. She had tested negative upon arrival.

Read Also: India reports first case of COVID-19 XE Variant

Current evidence does not suggest the presence of XE in India- Health Ministry

The Union Health Ministry has, however, has issued a statement saying that the current evidence does not suggest the presence of XE variant of COVID in India. The Ministry has denied the reports over the first case of Omicron XE variant being reported in Mumbai. 

The Ministry said that the sample, which is being said to be of the new COVID Variant XE was analysed in detail by genomic experts of INSACOG who have inferred that the genomic constitution of this variant does not correlate with the genomic picture of 'XE' variant".

The Ministry further said that the woman who reportedly tested positive for the XE variant is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic with no comorbidity. "She had come from South Africa on February 10 and had no prior travel history. On arrival, she had tested negative for the virus," the Ministry said.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope also said that the state health department has not arrived at any confirmation on the XE variant, as there is no National Institute of Biologicals report yet. He said there is no need to panic. 

Know COVID-19 XE Variant Symptoms Here 

What is COVID-19 XE Variant?

COVID-19 XE variant is a recombinant of BA.1 and BA.2, the sub-lineages of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. The variant reportedly has three other mutations which were not there in Omicron or BA.1 or BA.2. 

How Dangerous is COVID-19 XE variant?

Currently, the new COVID Variant XE accounts for a small fraction of cases at present. The XE recombinant was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19. Since then less than 600 sequences have been reported, confirmed WHO in a report. 

As per early studies, the XE strain of COVIF-19 has a growth rate advantage of 10 percent as compared to the BA.2 sub-variant, also known as 'Stealth' Omicron, which was the most contagious known strain of Covid-19 till now. 

A record number of people had COVID in the United Kingdom in the past week. The UK Health body noted that “XE shows evidence of community transmission within England, although it is currently less than one percent of total sequenced cases.”

According to the Chief Medical Adviser of Britain's Health Security Agency (HSA), Susan Hopkins, there is not enough evidence available to draw conclusions about XE's transmissibility, severity and also the effectiveness of vaccines.

What do the health experts say?

Some health experts have said that the XE strain of COVID-19 is not a cause of concern as it has not propelled a surge in cases like Omicron. However, they have advised people to strictly follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour.

What has WHO said?

The World Health Organisation has said that it will continue to monitor and assess the public health risk related to XE and will share updates as further evidence is made available. WHO is also monitoring another recombinant variant known as XD, which is a hybrid of Delta and Omicron, which has been detected in France, Denmark and Belgium.

Background

The new XE variant of COVID-19 was found in the initial sequencing. It was confirmed by GISAID and INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) has decided to go for another round of genomic sequencing at a national laboratory for sure confirmation of XE variant.

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