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Explained: What Is The XE Mutant, The New Variant That Is More Transmissible Than Omicron?

As India and several countries ease COVID 19 restrictions, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of a new variant, the XE mutant, detected in the UK, which has potential to spread faster than any other previously known COVID 19 strain. 

Many countries around the globe, including the UK, US and Germany are seeing yet another surge in Coronavirus cases. China reported the highest number of cases since the peak of the first wave, on Sunday, with Shanghai accounting for much of the cases. Amidst this, the WHO, flagging the new mutant strain, said in a report “The XE recombinant was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19 and over 600 sequences have been reported and confirmed since.” Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2, however, this finding requires further confirmation, it added.

What is the XE mutant? 

The UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) is monitoring three new recombinant mutants, the XD, XE and XF. The XD and XF are a combination of Delta and BA.1. But the third mutant, XE, which is a recombinant of the BA.1 AND BA.2 sub lineages of the Omicron variant is being closely watched. The XE mutant contains “BA.1 mutations for NSP1-6 and then BA.2 mutations for the remainder of the genome.”  

Also read: No, COVID-19 Vaccines Or Boosters Do Not Cause AIDS

How many cases have been reported? 

The XE variant was first detected in the UK on the 19th of January this year. As of 22 March 2022, there were 763 cases of XE mutant in the UK and 637 XE cases in England, the journal noted. Meanwhile, the XD variant is present in several European countries, such as France and Denmark and XF which caused a small cluster in the UK has not been detected since 15 February. 

How transmissible is the XE Strain?

Early growth rates for XE were not significantly different from BA.2 (a sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus variant reported to be dominant globally), but using the most recent data up to 16 March 2022, XE mutant has a growth rate 9.8% above that of BA.2, the  UKHSA said. This  indicates a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to the Omicron variant. The organisation has however clarified that more data is needed before a concrete estimate about its transmissibility can be released.


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Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

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