A new mutant of the novel coronavirus known as XE appears to be around ten per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, as per the World Health Organisation.
Until now, the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron was considered the most contagious strain of Covid-19. If this new research is confirmed, it would make XE the most transmissible Covid-19 mutant yet.
Meanwhile, the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is spreading across different regions of the world, now accounting for a majority of new Covid-19 cases in the US.
WHAT IS XE?
The new variant, XE, is a mutant hybrid of two versions of Omicron – BA.1 and BA.2. It only accounts for a small fraction of cases across the globe at the moment.
WHERE HAS IT BEEN FOUND?
“The XE recombinant (BA.1-BA.2), was first detected in the UK on January 19 and less than 600 sequences have been reported and confirmed since,” the WHO said in a report released earlier this week.
“Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 percent as compared to BA.2, however, this finding requires further confirmation,” the global health body added.
Until significant differences in characteristics, including severity and transmission, are noted in the XE mutant, it will continue to be categorised as part of the Omicron variant, as per the WHO.
As per a study by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), three new recombinant strains are currently circulating – XD, XE and XF.
A recombinant strain is one that is made up of two previously-distinct variants.
XD refers to the hybrid of Delta x BA.1 lineage of Omicron. It has mostly been found in France, Denmark and Belgium, as per reports. According to virologist Tom Peacock from Imperial College London, XD’s spread to more than one country and its inclusion of the more severe Delta make it a strain to watch out for.
XE is the hybrid of BA.1 x BA.2 sub-variants of Omicron. It has been found in Britain and shown evidence of community transmission.
XF is another hybrid of Delta x BA.1 lineage of Omicron. It was found in Britain but has not been detected since February 15.