‘Highly transmissible’ Covid XE variant found in Mumbai: 5 things to know

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Mumbai on Wednesday reported India’s first case of the highly-transmissible coronavirus variant, XE. The hybrid strain could be the most transmissible variant yet, according to the World Health Organisation.

The new variant, which was first reported in the UK, appears to be 10% more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, the WHO said.

Initial studies say that the XE variant has a growth rate of 9.8% over that of BA.2, also known as the stealth variant because of its ability to evade detection.

Here are the 5 key points about the XE variant:

– The hybrid of two omicron strains – BA.1 and BA.2 – was detected in a 50-year-old woman who had travelled to the city from South Africa in February, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said in a statement.

– The asymptomatic patient had no cormorbidities and had been quarantined after being diagnosed almost a month later in March, the Mumbai civic body said.

– Of the 230 samples sent from Mumbai for genome sequencing, one was found to be XE variant, while another was Kappa variant. The other 228 samples are of Omicron variant of Covid-19.

– WHO says that the XE mutation is currently being tracked as part of the Omicron variant. Omicron symptoms include fever, sore throat, scratchy throat, cough and cold, skin irritation and discoloration and gastrointestinal distress.

– XE is a “recombinant” mutant of BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains. Recombinant mutations emerge when a patient is infected by multiple variants of Covid-19.

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