Hundreds of new cases in England and one case in Thailand have been attributed to a new variant of COVID-19 called the Omicron XE.
The Independent reported that the United Kingdom Health Security Agency announced that the new Omicron XE variant is still under study and it is too early to know if it is more transmissible than its predecessors. Omicron XE is said to be a "recombinant," which means it is a mutation of two Omicron strains, particularly BA.1 and BA.2. There are currently 637 cases of XE in England as of March 22. The number reflects only a fraction of the 74,688 cases for the period.
"Early growth rates for XE were not significantly different from BA.2--also known as 'Stealth' Omicron. But using the most recent data up to 16 March 2022, it now had a growth rate 9.8 percent above that of the stealth variant," the Independent said, quoting the UKHSA in saying.
The UKHSA stressed that the numbers are too small for the XE recombinant to be analyzed by region. The agency's report showed that community transmission in England is less than one percent of the total sequenced cases.
In addition, the variant can not also be interpreted yet since the estimated growth advantage for it has not remained consistent with new data when added. United Kingdom Health Security Agency Chief Medical Advisor Susan Hopkins explained that recombinant variants are not common and often die relatively quickly. XE, in particular, is a recombinant that has shown a variable growth rate making it difficult to confirm whether it is transmissible or that it has a true growth advantage.
"So far there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness," Hopkins stressed.
The Bangkok Post confirmed that Omicron XE has arrived in Thailand based on a report from the Ramathibodi Hospital's Center for Medical Genomics. The hospital posted on its Facebook page that the variant was discovered after genomic sequencing was done on a swab sample of a Thai patient. The Omicron XE is an addition to another variant, Deltacron, which is a hybrid of the Delta and Omicron strains. Deltacron is found to exhibit nonsevere symptoms in the patient and does not spread easily. While Omicron XE is still pending studies on severity.
In terms of severity, Boston Children's Hospital Chief Innovation Officer Dr. John Brownstein told ABC News that people should not be worried about the new COVID-19 variant. He explained that the name given to Omicron XE is assigned to it out of a recurring variant from a series that was not of real concern.
"Right now, there's really no public health concern. Recombinant variants happen over and over. In fact, the reason that this is the XE variant recombinant is that we've had XA, XB, XC, XD already, and none of those have turned out to be any real concern," Brownstein said.
The Becker Hospital Review, on the other hand, raised that the new variant is under monitoring by the World Health Organization. As of date, there are five things the public need to know about the Omicron XE. Besides being a recombinant variant, XE estimates show 10% more transmissibility than BA.2.
As of March 29, the World Health Organization reported the presence of recombinant variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus. But they highlighted the continuous decline in COVID-19 cases across the globe. The agency said the number of cases further declined by 14% for the week of March 21 to 27, compared to the previous week.
The WHO raised that there was, however, a 43% increase in new weekly deaths for the same time period. The agency explained that the increase was due to a change in the definition of COVID-19 deaths in the United States and Chile and a retrospective adjustment done in the reports submitted by India.
Thus, the period recorded 10 million new cases with more than 45,000 new deaths for all six WHO regions. Notwithstanding, the decreasing trends for new weekly cases were eminent along with the decreasing trend in new weekly deaths for its four regions. This translates to 479 million confirmed cases and more than 6 million deaths globally as of March 27, 2022.