At a time when India is reporting less than 1,000 COVID-19 daily cases after almost a year, new sub-types of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged in the United Kingdom and China. These sequenced sub-types have evolved from the Omicron variant.
The sub-type that was reported from UK has been named as the XE variant. China is seeing a fresh wave of cases and is reporting more cases than it did during the first wave in 2019-20. Within these cases, the Chinese scientists have sequenced two sub-types derived from Omicron which do not match any existing sequenced variants and sub-types circulating in the country.
These sub-types need to be further studied to understand the extent of their spread and transmissibility. As these sub-types share similar characteristics, every country and its citizens will be expected to be more vigilant to curb any outbreaks in the future.
What Is The XE Sub-type?
In the UK, the XE sub-type was first discovered in January. Since then, the variant has been found in over 600 other sequences.
The World Health Organisation found that this sub-type is a recombinant variant wherein it has characteristics of both the BA.1 and BA.2 sub-types of Omicron.
A recombinant variant in this case is the virus evolving and mutating with its own sub-type. Deltacron- the mixture of Omicron and Delta reported earlier as a lab error was also found in the UK.
According to the WHO, this could be a more transmissible sub-type. The WHO has said that the XE mutation has a growth rate about 10% faster than that of BA.2 making it the fastest transmitting mutation.
However, it needs to be continuously monitored to see whether it could lead to an increase in cases and a potential COVID wave.
Which Sub-types Were Found In China?
China reported two new sub-types in two individuals at a time when the country is reporting more than 12,000 cases, daily.
Global Times reported that the country found a new sub-type which is different from all the sequenced variants circulating in China, so far. A further mutant of Omicron, this sub-type has evolved from the BA.1.1 sub-type.
Isolated from a person suffering from mild COVID in a city 70 kilometres away from Shanghai, local health authorities said this sequence does not exist in the Chinese databases or the GISAID database. GISAID is an open source database that stores genomic data of various viruses and their variants.
The other sub-type was found in an individual in Dalian city in northern China. The local government on its WeChat channel said that this case had a sequence that was not circulating domestically.
Whether these cases will proliferate and be more infectious needs to be monitored. The Chinese authorities stated that they were closely studying if these cases were spreading.
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