The World Health Organisation reports new mutant ‘XE’ variant of Omicron

Health authorities have detected 637 cases of a new COVID variant in England.

Dubbed the XE, relatively little is known about it. The variant is a combination of the original BA.1 omicron variant and its subvariant BA.2. This type of combination is known as a “recombinant” variant. 

What do the experts have to say?

An early indication from the U.K. suggests XE could be slightly more transmissible than BA.2, but the World Health Organization said more research is needed.

“Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence, particularly when there are several variants in circulation, and several have been identified over the course of the pandemic to date.” Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, said in a statement.

“As with other kinds of variant, most will die off relatively quickly. 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 draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness. 

“UKHSA will continue to monitor the situation closely as a matter of routine, as we do all data relating to SARS-CoV-2 variants both in the UK and internationally.”

Is there a cause for concern?

The World Health Organization’s report says it is monitoring XE, but there is no evidence yet that it is a variant of concern like alpha, delta and omicron.

A statement from The Australian Department of Health added it was “closely monitoring” the COVID-19 situation and would respond accordingly.

“The Australian Government is closely monitoring the global COVID-19 situation and is ready to respond quickly to changing information and circumstances, including the possibility of new variants of COVID-19 emerging in Australia,” the department said.

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