NIV scientists to genome sequence XE coronavirus variant found in Mumbai

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NEW DELHI: Scientists with the National Institute of Virology, Pune, will analyse the samples found to have the more transmissible XE variant of the coronavirus in Mumbai, for a confirmation.

The central government will take action based on the reports from NIV, according to government officials.

On Wednesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that a woman who had arrived from South Africa in February and tested positive for COVID-19 was found infected with the XE variant, which was first detected in the UK.

Following this, the union health ministry had said that genomic constitution of sample verified by experts from Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) does not correlate with the genomic picture of ‘XE’ variant. 

“FastQ files in respect of the sample, which is being said to be ‘XE’ variant were analyzed in detail by genomic experts of INSACOG who have inferred that the genomic constitution of this variant does not correlate with the genomic picture of ‘XE’ variant,” a spokesperson for union health and family welfare ministry had said.

“As per the government protocol, any variant which is detected from anywhere has to come to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for confirmation. Once NIV, Pune confirms it, then only the health ministry will declare the same. The sample is likely to reach today to NIV, following which scientists at NIV Pune will genome sequencing of the sample and confirm it the INSACOG. As of now, it is early to say what will be the nature of this new mutant,” said a government scientist, requesting anonymity.

According to the World Health Organisation, the XE variant of coronavirus is the hybrid strain of two Omicron sub-variants, and reportedly the most transmissible strain so far. So far, the XE variant has been reported in the UK, New Zealand, China, among a few others.

An email query sent to the health ministry spokesperson on Thursday morning regarding the new covid mutant virus to be analyzed by the scientists of NIV, Pune wasn’t immediately answered.

As on date, India has reported more than 4.9 crore covid cases, with death toll at 5.2 lakh. Under the nationwide vaccination drive, more than 185.04 crore vaccine doses have been administered so far.

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