New Covid Variant XE Found In UK, More Transmissible Than Omicron


London: A new Covid variant has been found in the UK, the World Health Organisation said in its latest report. The new mutant, called XE, maybe more transmissible than any strain of COVID-19, the health body said.

XE is a “recombinant” which is a mutation of BA’1 and BA.2 Omicron strains. Recombinant mutations emerge when a patient is infected by multiple variants of Covid. The variants mix up their genetic material during replication and form a new mutation, UK experts said in a paper published in British Medical Journal.

The World Health Organisation said that the new mutation XE appears to be 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron.

“Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2, however, this finding requires further confirmation,” the global health body added.

Britain’s health agency said that XE was first detected on January 19 and 637 cases of the new variant have been reported yet.

The WHO on April 1 issued a report on its findings of XE. “The XE recombinant was first detected in the United Kingdom on 19 January and >600 sequences have been reported and confirmed since,” the WHO research shows. Earlier, the UN health agency had issued warnings against Omicron, Delta recombinant virus, saying that with both Omicron and Delta circulating on a massive scale, this was highly expected.

As per eminent virologist Tom Peacock, recombinants that contain the spike and structural proteins from a single virus (like XE or XF) are fairly likely to act similarly to their parental virus.

Experts say XD is maybe a little more concerning than XE. It has been found in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark. It contains the structural proteins from Delta – if any of these recombinants were to act much differently than its parent it might be XD.

Meanwhile, the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is spreading rapidly across the globe. Some 4.9 million people in the UK are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week ending March 26, or 600,000 more than the previous week, the latest survey by the Office for National Statistics said.

US and China also reported a surge in Covid cases driven by the BA.2 variant. China reported nearly 104,000 domestic Covid infections in March, with 90 per cent of the recent cases found in Shanghai or northeastern Jilin province.