One case of the XE variant, a recombinant strain of the coronavirus, has been found in India, according to the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortium, or INSACOG. Health authorities in three states had said last month that they have detected cases of the variant, but the central government had denied the claims.
The country’s Covid-19 genome sequencing body made the observation in a bulletin released on April 25. The bulletin was made public on Tuesday.
A recombinant is a variant created by the combination of genetic material from two different strains of a virus, according to the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The XE is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant and has shown a slightly higher transmission rate.
Found first in the United Kingdom on January 19, the XE variant is a mix – or recombinant – of the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 strains which could have emerged when a patient was infected with both at the same time. BA.2, also referred to as stealth Omicron, was deemed to be the most contagious of all the Covid-19 variants so far.
None of the sub-lineages of the coronavirus found in India has resulted in increased severity of disease, the genome sequencing body said in its latest bulletin. The INSACOG has sequenced a total of 2,09,194 samples so far. There have been no reports of any cluster of cases due to the XE variant as of yet.
The INSACOG did not specify where the XE variant case had been found.
On April 6, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had said that India’s first case of coronavirus variant XE had been detected in Mumbai. However, the Union Health Ministry denied the claim, noting that the variant is of a different genetic composition than XE.
Three days later, Gujarat had claimed that the XE variant was found in a 67-year-old man who had travelled to Vadodara from Mumbai. The man had tested positive for the coronavirus disease on March 12.
Kerala had also reported one case of the XE variant on April 22, according to The New Indian Express.
There is no cause for alarm yet, an unidentified government official told The Indian Express. “Less than a handful of recombinant variants have been detected in the country so far. It has no public health significance unless we see it spreading faster, affecting a different population, or causing severe disease.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday India reported 3,205 new Covid-19 cases and 2,802 recoveries in the last 24 hours, according to the Union health ministry. The active caseload in the country stood at 19,509. India’s total Covid-19 vaccination coverage exceeds 189.48 crores.
The Union health ministry has not issued any statement so far regarding the presence of the XE variant in the country.