New Omicron XE Variant found in UK – Possibly Most Transmissible Yet

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said they are looking at the XE variant (Image: PA).

The World Health Organization is closely monitoring a new omicron variant, XE, first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19, with over 600 cases reported and confirmed since. 

The variant is said to be a “recombination” or a mutation of the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains, meaning the two have merged. 

The BA.1 sub lineage of the Omicron variant is the one which the Samoa Ministry of Health has confirmed is currently spreading across Samoa, confirmed by 50 samples of positive cases sent to New Zealand for genomic sequencing.

Lines at shops in Samoa before extended opening hours were applied. Photos: Ganasavea, SGN.

“This sub lineage of the Omicron variant was common in many countries since the beginning of this year, however the most recent BA.2 sub lineage of the Omicron variant appears to have displaced the BA.1 in many countries including New Zealand and Australia”, stated Samoa’s Ministry of Health last week.

The BA.2 variant is the dominant one currently sweeping through Samoa’s Pacific neighbors, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia, as well as in the United States.

The newly discovered XE variant, according to WHO, has a growth rate of 10% higher in comparision to the BA. 2 sub-variant. XE is being classed, for now, as another sub lineage of Omicron.

“XE belongs to the Omicron variant until significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, may be found” states the WHO. 

“The XE recombinant was first detected in the United Kingdom on 19 January and more than 600 sequences have been reported and confirmed since,” reads the WHO document. “Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of ~10% as compared to BA.2, however this finding requires further confirmation,” says WHO.

The World Health Organisation have also raised concerns about the quality of data that is coming through from member countries. WHO have said last week that Member States are relaxing on the testing of covid cases, as nations move to re-open borders and learn to live with the virus.

“Data are becoming progressively less representative, less timely, and less robust,” states WHO.

“This inhibits our collective ability to track where the virus is, how it is spreading and how it is evolving: information and analyses that remain critical to effectively end the acute phase of the pandemic.”

Samoa’s nation-wide booster vaccination campaign continues this week – launched after the arrived of over 70,000 Pfizer vaccines donated by the Government and people of Australia.

Julius Netzler