XE variant of COVID-19 more transmissible, but not a matter of concern for India yet; A look at the new strain

The first case of the new Omicron variant, XE, was detected in Mumbai on 6 April, 2022. Of the 230 COVID-infected patients, one has been detected with the XE strain while another with the Kappa variant, the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation said in a statement. Touted as more transmissible  by the World Health Organisation (WHO),  the XE is a recombinant variant, which means it is a mutant hybrid of the two previous versions of the Omicron variant, BA.1 and BA.2. However, according to top virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, a Professor at Christian Medical College in Vellore, the new XE variant of the coronavirus is not a matter of concern as it is not likely to cause any more severity than other sub-variants of Omicron. What is the Omicron XE variant? The new strain was first detected in the UK on 19 January, 2022, and more than 600 cases have been reported and confirmed since then. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a warning against a new mutant 'XE' variant of Omicron, that may be more transmissible than any strain of COVID-19 seen before, according to a report by express.co.uk . 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, it said. Recombinants can emerge when multiple variants infect the same person at the same time, allowing the variants to interact during replication, mix up their genetic material, and form new combinations, a paper published in the British Medical Journal notes. There are currently three hybrid or recombinant viruses that have been detected: XD, XE, XF. The two different combinations of Delta and BA.1 are XD and XF. The third is XE. How dangerous is the XE variant? A BMC official said the XE variant appears to be 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron. So far, BA.2 was deemed to be the most contagious of all the COVID-19 variants. As per the WHO, BA.2, which is a subvariant of the Omicron strain, is the most dominant strain of the virus, being 86 per cent of all sequenced cases attributed to it. As per the initial studies, the XE variant has a growth rate of 9.8 per cent over that of BA.2, also known as the stealth variant because of its ability to evade detection. The global health body noted that until they can detect "significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity", XE will remain categorised as a part of the Omicron variant. "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," the report continued. As the XE variant is still new, it is yet to be ascertained that it comes with any new symptoms. According to a report by Independent , the most reported symptoms of the original strain of Omicron are much like a cold, especially in people who’ve been vaccinated, including running noses, sneezing and sore throats. The original strain of the coronavirus generally led to fever, coughs and a loss of taste or smell. However, the UK’s National Health Service updated the list of symptoms on 4 April, 2022. According to nhs.uk the signs of Covid-19 that people should also look out for include: shortness of breath, feeling tired or exhausted, an aching body, a headache, a sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick. Should India worry about the XE variant of COVID-19? The new XE variant of the coronavirus is not a matter of concern as it is not likely to cause any more severity than other sub-variants of Omicron, Dr Gagandeep Kang, Professor at Christian Medical College in Vellore, said on 7 April, 2022. "Variants will come because people are travelling. What we know of the variant (XE) is that it is not a point of concern," Kang said. "We were worried about BA.2 but it did not cause more serious disease than BA.1. XE does not cause more serious disease than BA.1 or BA.2 (sub-variants of Omicron)," she said on the sidelines of a panel discussion organised by Gupta-Klinsky India Institute of the Johns Hopkins University here. She added that in a vaccinated population, XE variant is not something to be bothered about. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has said it has detected India's first case of XE infection in Mumbai . However, the Union Health Ministry said that the sample which is being said to be 'XE' variant was analysed in detail by genome experts of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), who have inferred that the genomic constitution of this variant does not correlate with the genomic constitution of XE variant. When asked about her views on administering booster doses to population below 60 years, Kang said that the country doesn't have enough data to establish the effectiveness of booster doses among people younger than 60 years. Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Balram Bhargava echoed a similar view on booster dose and said, "I agree with Dr Kang.” With inputs from agencies Read all the Latest News , Trending News ,  Cricket News , Bollywood News , India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .

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