WHAT IS XE Omnicron Variant?
The XE variant is a recombinant of two Omicron variants (BA.1 + BA.2).
Recombinant variants are new strains of the virus created as a result of genetic mutations which occur when two different variants infect the same host cell. Some previously identified variants of the novel coronavirus include XA, XB and XC.
Recently, the emergence of the Delta X Omicron recombinant or “DELTACRON” raised some eyebrows. However, there have been no reports of a significant surge in infections linked to the variant.
“Early estimates based on limited preliminary data suggest that XE has a community growth rate advantage of about 10 per cent over BA.2, although this finding requires further confirmation,” said Dr Amita Gupta, chief (infectious diseases) at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Sources on the Government of India’s expert panel – INSACOG – say the XE variant is either a mixed-up sequence or a case of a person getting infected with two variants as a result of multiple exposures.
But should we be worried or mask up again even as states have dropped their guard in relaxing mask mandates?
One of India’s leading virologists, Dr Gagandeep Kang said, “Being infected with two variants at the same time can happen. And this is how two variants arise. When you are infected with two viruses, they get inside the same cell, they exchange portions of genes that can result in a daughter virus that does not like either of the parents.
“If we had something that was more infectious and caused severe disease, we should have been more worried, which is not the case with this one.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the body is tracking the XE recombinant.
This new variant has been labelled as more transmissible than any other Covid strain. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), this recombinant variant is 10 per cent more transmissible than BA.2.
The BA.1 and BA.2 are two prominent sub-variants of the Omicron variant — which is responsible for over 90 per cent of the infections detected in 2023. In India, it was the BA.2 that was the most dominant during the third wave. There is another less common sub-variant — BA.3.
The BA.2 was found to be slightly more transmissible than BA.1. It has spread across the globe, accounting for almost 94 per cent of all Omicron infections in the last one month, as per the WHO.