New Omikron variant XE: What is known so far?

Data on a new corona variant has been published in Great Britain. In the last two months, 763 infections with Omikron XE were detected there.

The government body UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published information on a newly discovered corona variant in its latest report on March 25th. What is Omikron XE all about?

Omikron XE – new Recombinants

According to the UKHSA, Omicron XE is a so-called recombinant, i.e. a hybrid of previous subtypes of the  coronavirus . In this case it is a recombination of the two omicron subtypes BA.1 and BA.2. The first infection with Omikron XE was registered in Great Britain at the end of January 2022.

Basically, recombinants are not uncommon – they can always arise in the body of infected people. Omikron XE is also probably due to a double infection with subtypes BA.1 and BA.2. 

Omicron XE has a large part of the genome of BA.2. The spike protein, with which the coronavirus docks to human cells, also corresponds to that of the subtype. However, omicron XE also differs from the previously known omicron subtypes in three mutations. It is not yet known what effects this could have.

There is still insufficient data on the danger

While researchers could not find an increased infection rate shortly after the first discovery of the recombinant, the UKHSA states in its last report that the growth rate of Omicron XE was increased by almost 10 percent compared to the previous variants. According to official information, the data collected so far by the British health authority does not yet allow any clear statements to be made as to whether Omikron XE could be more contagious than its predecessors.

There is still insufficient information regarding the course of the disease or the effectiveness of the vaccines that have been approved so far.

Further mutations discovered in Great Britain and South Africa

In addition to Omikron XE, infections with the variant Omikron XF have also been reported in Great Britain in recent months. This is a hybrid of BA.1 and the Delta variant. At this point in time, however, only 38 cases of infection with Omikron XF have been registered, the last of which was in mid-February.

Also mentioned in the UKHSA report is the omicron and delta recombinant XD. So far, this has not occurred in Great Britain, but has been registered in France in particular. So far, however, only 49 cases have been recorded worldwide.

Another corona variant has also been reported in South Africa. According to researchers, the subtype of the omicron variant BA.2 with the somewhat unwieldy name BA.2+L452R has a mutation in the spike protein that also occurs in the lambda, kappa and delta variants of the coronavirus. So far there is not enough information on the infectivity or the course of the disease of the variant. So far, the number of new infections in South Africa with a seven-day incidence of 16 is still at a very low level, which initially does not indicate an increase in the number of infections caused by BA.2+L452R.


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