A new strain of Omicron known as XE is causing outbreaks in the United Kingdom, and a few instances have been reported elsewhere in the globe. The Omicron XE strain was discovered in a lady in her 30s who came from the United States to Narita International Airport on March 26 2022. According to Japan's health ministry, the lady, whose country was not immediately known, was asymptomatic. This page summarizes what is known about the most recent Corona strain.
What is the Omicron XE variant?
The XE variety is a recombinant virus, which means that it combines elements of two separate strains of Omicron, in this instance, BA.1, the original strain of Omicron, and BA.2, dubbed "stealth omicron."
According to health professionals, recombinant variations are not unusual. Recombinant variations are not totally uncommon, especially when many variants are in circulation, as numerous have been detected so far in the pandemic. As is the case with different other types of variants, the majority will perish rather fast.
As per the official website of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's, epidemiologists in the United States are not actively monitoring XE. It has not been recognized as a variant of interest or concern.
According to an early study, XE may be the fastest-spreading strain to date, although more research is needed to confirm the variant's actual contagiousness.
The UK Health Security Agency showed in late March that XE has a growth rate of 9.8 percent higher than BA.2. The World Health Organization has issued a similar statement, citing estimates that XE is 10% more contagious than BA.2. However, the agency warned that such conclusions need validation.
What are the Symptoms of Omicron XE?
As the sub variation is new, the situation may alter, but it is not presently believed that XE causes additional symptoms. The most often reported symptoms of the original Omicron strain are similar to those of a cold, specially in those who have been vaccinated.
According to NHS.uk, further indicators of Covid-19 to watch for include shortness of breath, fatigue, an aching body, a headache, a sore throat, a clogged or runny nose, lack of appetite, diarrhea, feeling nauseous, or being sick.
In Which Places Omicron XE Variant Has Spread So Far
The first case of XE was discovered in the United Kingdom on January 19, 2022. According to the UKHSA, moreover, 600 instances of XE have been found there to date—less than 1% of all sequenced cases. That is a fraction of the rate of cases caused by BA.2, which is currently the predominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Additionally, XE has been discovered in India and Thailand. According to Bloomberg, one incident was reported on April 6 in Mumbai, while on April 4, the Center for Medical Genomics in Bangkok reported one recent case of XE.
Should We Be Worried About the Omicron XE Variant
Early estimates indicate that XE may be more transmissible than previous strains since it has so far grown at a somewhat faster pace than its predecessor.
According to UKHSA statistics, XE has a growth rate of 9.8 percent greater than BA.2, but the World Health Organization has previously estimated the number at 10%. However, researchers predict that its severity will decline as it spreads more readily. XE has not been designated as a variation of concern so far.
XE seems to be following the same path as BA.2, with increasing transmissibility to BA.1 but less severe symptoms," Jennifer Horney, an epidemiology professor at the University of Delaware, stated.
"It is, in a sense, the devil we know. It is basically a reshuffle of the same deck of cards," noted Mark Cameron, an associate professor in Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine.
XE has a spike and structural proteins from the same viral family as Omicron, implying that it should act similarly to Omicron in the past. As a result, existing vaccinations and immunity should give some protection against infection.
"Recombinants that have both the spike and structural proteins from a single virus (such as XE or XF) are very likely to behave similarly to [their] mother virus," Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London's Department of Infectious Disease, stated in a mid-March Twitter thread. XF refers to another recombinant that was discovered in the United Kingdom in February.
Other recombinants comprising spike and structural proteins from other viral families, on the other hand, continue to arise. This includes the newly identified XD subvariant in Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark, which comprises delta structural proteins and omicron spike proteins, characterized by Peacock as "a bit more worrying."
As such, any new emergencies must be properly examined, particularly during their first stages, to ensure they do not develop into something more problematic.
"The virus remains capable of evolving, recombining, and forming a new branch of its family tree," Cameron said.
"The critical finding is that for these variations and subvariants, the risk of hospital readmission appears to be lower on average in areas with higher vaccination rates, implying that vaccination, including a third dose, should be efficient in decreasing risk for severe disease," added Stephanie Silvera, professor of public health at Montclair State University.
What is Still not Known Yet?
There is insufficient evidence to determine if XE will spread faster or produce more severe sickness than previous SARS-CoV-2 genotypes. "There is scant data at this time to form judgments regarding transmissibility, severity, or vaccination efficacy," Susan Hopkins, the UKHSA's chief medical adviser, said in a statement.
However, some information may be deduced from the two strains that make it. It has long been shown that vaccinations protect against symptomatic sickness caused by BA.1 and BA.2. It is to believe vaccination techniques will provide protection against symptomatic sickness caused by XE.
Another indication is that BA.1 and BA.2 are both capable of evading some monoclonal antibody therapy. As a result, such medications are unlikely to be as effective against XE. Additionally, it’s also been known that the other treatments, which are mostly utilized in the outpatient setting—Paxlovid and molnupiravir—should retain effectiveness against the XE strain based on their mechanism of action.
Because the WHO is monitoring XE under the omicron umbrella, it does not yet have its own Greek letter moniker. According to the organization, XE is classified as an omicron variation unless substantial changes in disease transmission and features, including severity, are identified. The organization urges individuals globally to exercise additional vigilance.
If proper measures are not taken the new variant can spread to other countries of the world and affect millions of people. However, it is not the right time to predict the impact of this new Coronavirus. On the whole, to stay safe from the Covid-19's new strain Omicron XE we have to maintain hygiene and social distance.