Published: 11:14 PM, 11 Apr, 2022
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The mystery is still on as Corona Virus new Variant XE has been emerging in the globe, identified in UK on 19th January 2022 and to date about 700 cases have been confirmed as pointed out by World Health Organization (WHO) in the  recent Epidemiological Updates of Covid-19. 

WHO has declared XE a hybrid omicron strain of two strains namely BA.1 and BA.2, as technically it is a recombinant virus. It is a combination of genetic material of two or more different viruses having components of the original omicron strain, BA.1 and BA.2 a sub variant also labelled as stealth omicron which is the highly infectious

Early figures from WHO and the UKHSA suggests the XE variant may have 10% more transmissibility than the omicron sub variant BA.2 and is responsible for about  1% of total cases sequenced.            

 It is clarified here that recombinant viruses emerge when a person gets infected with two more variants simultaneously which permits mixing up of their genetic material. 

But keep in mind that these Recombinant variants are not an unusual incidence, predominantly when there are several variants presenting in the community and many have been known over the pandemic span. Not amazingly most would disappear quickly as is the case with other variants

The clinical presentation of the XE variant has not been found to be indistinguishable from BA.1 and BA.2. 

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) USA is evaluating for the booster shots of vaccination and how to target this particular strain of the virus in the coming days

Considering the Corona virus high level of transmission worldwide, it is likely that further variants, including recombinants would continue to emerge. Recombination is common among coronaviruses and is regarded as a mutational event which could be predicted.

This reality should never be ignored that some people would be infected by both or more strains of corona virus. If this new variant is going to be detected in multiple regions and spreading in the community, then it would be of grave concern and consequences

The XE variant has also been detected in Thailand and New Zealand. The World Health Organization (WHO) has uttered that further data is required before more could be unfolded about the mutation

None of the XE cases have been registered in America as per Chicago Department of Public Health but as part of surveillance system CDC is strictly observing these circulating variants, 

XE has not been traced in Sub-continent including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to-date. Though a suspected case in under observation in India who returned from South Africa

Furthermore transmissibility, severity and vaccine effectiveness against this new variant need patience and efforts to get to any ends 

The recent rising up of XE Coronavirus variant cases has been causing a great fear and worries around the globe.

According to (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, XE is being monitored closely but it has not been categorized as a variant of interest or a variant of concern.

World health organization has stated that it would continue to keep watch and follow recombinants and update the globe sooner as more authentic facts are brought into notice 

XE strain may be spreading very rapidly then its previous strains as per primary research but further surveys are required which are in progress. 

It is highlighted here that available Covid-19 vaccines are effective tools against all these variants of corona viruses which have been notified so far. However further studies are required to see the results of vaccines on this XE variant

As already narrated that it is expected and regular feature that viruses would change over span of time. Some of these changes are the result of genetic mutation but some major changes can arise when human is infected with their more than one type. There is an exchange of genetic material as they replicate inside human cells, efficiently making a hybrid with features of both sides hence a few number of Covid recombinants have been surfacing during this ongoing pandemic time to time and this phenomenon may continue.  Importantly majority of these recombinant viruses disappear rapidly 

The dark side is that the New variants could possibly evade available regimes including vaccines and treatments to combat Covid-19 as  Omicron escapes the protection by previous infection and vaccination.BA.1 and BA.2 both have been showing resistantance to treatment by monoclonal antibodies .Hence there is  big question mark about XE for the evasion or aggressive behavior against these treatment regimes.

in addition  Coronaviruses may  recombine with other types of virus, for example rotaviruses  and influenza etc. and Such a recombinant could exhibit unexpected and new  properties

In addition to the XE variant, as mentioned earlier, the WHO and UKHSA noted two other recombinant variants namely XD and XF both of which are Delta and Omicron (BA.1) recombinants

A small number of cases have been reported of these recombinant variants. Since mid of February 2022, the cases of the XF variant have been raised to 38, while 49 cases of XD variant have been recognized in France. 

WHO shows it major concerns that these variants are emerging at a critical time when there is substantial reduction both in the testing and reporting of Covid cases around the globe?

Fortunately, the Covid-19 cases have been decreasing in Pakistan but regrettably the public has given up all the preventive measures blatantly, all-together. They should continue to adapt them to stay safe which in the current XE variant surge must be reinforced at all levels. 

Remember, XE is not the first  corona virus variant and quite likely it would not be the last till the Pandemic is declared over but preventive measure is best all time tool!!!

Dr Asif Channer

The write is a doctor and serving as a DEO at the Rescue 1122, Bahawalpur.