Just as many are hearing about BA.2, there’s already a newer, apparently even more transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2 on the rise.
Actually, there are three new variants of SARS-CoV-2 that have been given designations. According to a recently-released report from the UK Health Services Agency, the two being called XD and XF are combinations of Delta and BA.1, or so-called “Deltacron” strains, which have been talked about for months but made no significant inroads in any country.
XD is present in several European countries, but has not been detected in the UK, according to the report. XF caused a small cluster in the UK but has not been detected there since February 15. The variant of greater concern, it seems, is the one dubbed XE.
Like the other two new arrivals, XE is a recombinant strain, meaning it is made up of two previously-distinct variants. But it is not a Deltacron mix. XE is actually made up of the original Omicron (BA.1) and the newer Omicron (BA.2) which has taken over in the U.S.
The World Health Organization issued a report yesterday with some preliminary findings about XE.
“The XE recombinant was first detected in the United Kingdom on 19 January and >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.”
To be clear, XE only accounts for a tiny fraction of cases worldwide. That may change though, if XE is indeed 10% more transmissible than the already more-transmissible BA.2. That would mean it is roughly 43% more transmissible than the original Omicron.