What is the XE Variant?
The XE variant of coronavirus is one of the sub-variants of Omicron. In India, Omicron had caused the third wave of COVID-19 infections. Omicron has two prominent sub-variants – BA.1 and BA.2. BA.1 is the original strain of the coronavirus, while BA.2 is far more infectious and prevalent. The XE variant was first found in the UK on January 19. Since then, more than 630 cases of XE variant have been reported in the country, which is less than one percent of the UK’s millions of coronavirus cases.
With over 1,100 cases recorded worldwide, the variant has been identified in countries like the United Kingdom, India, China, and Thailand and is fast becoming a cause of concern to the general public.
The medical fraternity call the XE variant of Covid-19 ‘recombinant’. This is because this variant contains the mutations found both in BA.1 and BA.2. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “recombination is common among coronaviruses and is an expected mutational event.”
Moreover, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), a person is considered affected by the recombinant variant when he/she is infected with two or more variants at the same time. This causes a mixing of their genetic material within the patient’s body. UKHSA also suggests that the XE recombinant is “not more dangerous and does not have any significant advantages over other variants”.
Is it more transmissible than other variants?
According to WHO, this variant is possibly 10 percent more transmissible than the BA.2 variant. However, the medical community is conducting further studies to confirm this. According to Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, UKHSA, “There is currently insufficient evidence to conclude growth advantage or other properties of this variant. This particular recombinant, XE, has shown a variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm whether it has a true growth advantage. So far there is not enough evidence to conclude transmissibility, severity, or vaccine effectiveness.”
However, according to the UK Health Security Agency, symptoms of XE include running nose, sneezing, and sore throats. Notably, the original strain of the virus generally showed symptoms like fever, cough, and a loss of taste or smell.
However, the NHS has added some other symptoms like –
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Aching body
- Sore throat
- Blocked or runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick or being sick
Doctors have repeatedly stated that the severity of the COVID-19 infection will vary from one person to another depending on their vaccination status and immunity. In case of severe infection, the XE variant can cause heart problems, palpitations, and nerve damage.
According to a statement published by WHO, fully vaccinated people have significantly less risk of severe disease and death from the XE variant. However, it is important to maintain COVID-19 appropriate behavior like continuing to wear a mask and observing social distancing. It is also recommended to not attend overcrowded places. For those at risk of severe disease or illness, the booster dose can increase their immunity and protection.
Should we be worried about XE?
To date, there is no such evidence that suggests that the infection caused by the XE variant is more severe. The WHO has said that this variant “belongs to the Omicron variant until significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, may be reported.” Moreover, according to Professor Hopkins, “Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence, particularly when there are several variants in circulation, and several have been identified throughout the pandemic to date. As with other kinds of variants, most will die off relatively quickly.”
DocGenie is an online telemedicine platform that provides you with quality healthcare from the comfort of your own space. On DocGenie, you can book an online consultation with highly qualified doctors as well as book lab tests for home collection.