Weeks after reports of 2 unconfirmed cases of XE variant emerged in Maharashtra and Gujarat, The Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG) has now confirmed one case of the recombinant subvariant in India.
Making the announcement in their latest bulletin, INSACOG has not given details, or specified where this variant was detected.
Meanwhile, health officials have said that this is not a cause for alarm, as so far there is no evidence to suggest that the XE variant causes more severe illness than others.
Is XE a cause for concern? What measures do we need to take? Here's everything you need to know.
Is the XE variant a cause for concern?
The World Health Organization has issued a statement on 6 April 2022 that the XE variant is a particular cause for concern because it has a higher transmissibility rate.
"The XE recombinant (BA.1-BA.2) is being tracked as part of the Omicron variant. This recombinant was first detected in the United Kingdom on 19 January and a few hundred sequences have been reported and confirmed since," the WHO said.
But it added that "early estimates based on limited preliminary data suggest that XE has a community growth rate advantage of about 10 percent as compared to BA.2, however this finding requires further confirmation."
Is XE a part of the Omicron variant?
The UK Health Security Agency had stated in late March that the UK was currently witnessing three recombinant variants of COVID, dubbed XE, XF, and XD, apart from the existing cases of Omicron and Delta.
The report added that XE, which is a BA.1/BA.2 recombinant, showed evidence of community transmission within England, although this accounted for less than 1 percent of the total sequenced cases.
According to the report, the recombinant variants XD and XF are a combination of the previous strains of Delta and BA.1.
How transmissible is the variant?
We do not know yet.
"Some media have misreported the potential growth advantage of 10% as 10 times. This is incorrect. If the 10% increase in growth is confirmed, this variant would be 1.1 times more transmissible not 10 times," the WHO warned.
The report adds that until the WHO identifies significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, XE will continue to stay under the Omicron classification.
Are more variants likely to surface?
Experts have warned of possible recombinant variants of COVID, like Deltacron, which display the traits of other variants like Delta and Omicron.
Virologist Tom Peacock has stated that while there are several recombinant variants of COVID being witnessed and designated every day, like XM, XQ, XL, and XR, all of them have been outdone by the spread of BA.2 Omicron.
"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."WHO report, as quoted in The Express
American epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, in a conversation with the World Health Organization, stated that many variants and offshoots of COVID-19 were highly likely in the process of weaning off of the virus. She added that this was a normal part of the process.
She also warned people to continue being cautious and follow mask rules and safety measures, adding that the pandemic was not over.