New Covid Variant Xe More Severe Than Omicron? Expert Answers


The new XE variant of coronavirus is not a matter of grave concern as it is not likely to be more severe than the Omicron and its sub-variants, said Dr Gagandeep Kang, a professor at Vellore’s Christian Medical College, on Thursday. 

“Variants will come because people are travelling. Of what we know of the variant (XE) is that it is not a point of concern,” Kang was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

“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,” she added. 

Kang said that in a vaccinated population, the XE variant is not something to be bothered about.

Other health experts have also sought to downplay apprehensions centred around XE and said despite being around since January, the strain has not propelled a surge in cases like Omicron.

Senior epidemiologist Dr Raman Gangakhedekar, former head scientist of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said when a recombinant occurs, it tends to last for a lesser time.

“Recombinant events are chance events because two different types of viruses are in the body and they tend to develop a recombinant new virus,” Gangakhedekar said. 

He said the virus fitness does not increase by a recombinant event. It is unlikely to be stable as recombinants are rare events.

This comes as reports had stated on Wednesday that the first case of XE was detected in Maharashtra’s Mumbai. 

However, the Union health ministry said that the sample which is being said to be the ‘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.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a warning against XE, a new variant of Omicron first detected in the UK.

It has suggested that the variant could be more transmissible than any Covid strain so far. XE is a combination of recombinants of both sub-variants (BA.1 and BA.2) of Omicron.


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