New Omicron XE Subvariant Has the Potential to Spread

Maria Weiß

April 26, 2022

This article was originally published in German on Coliquio.

For some time now, virologists have been observing how different variants of the coronavirus can merge to form new mutations if a patient is infected with different variants at the same time.

This kind of recombination seems now to have happened with the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.2. The resulting subvariant, Omicron XE, contains the largest proportion of the genome (including the spike gene) from the currently prevalent subvariant BA.2 and a smaller proportion from BA.1.

First Detected in January

The new variant was first detected on January 19, 2022. By March 22, Omicron XE had been detected in 637 people across the United Kingdom, according to a recent report on virus variants from the UK Health Security Agency.

Omicron still accounts for less than 1% of all positive coronavirus samples in the UK. However, the growth rate is 9.8% higher than for BA.2 and is therefore higher than all previous coronavirus variants. Whether Omicron XE will overtake BA.2 cannot be determined yet.

Dreaded Combinations

A combination of Omicron and Delta variants is dreaded, since this could mean the concurrence of severe disease progression with high infection rates. Here too, researchers are observing two variants, Omicron XD and XF, which are both made up of Delta and Omicron BA.1.

These two variants do not seem to be widespread in the population, however. XF has been detected 39 times in the UK, most recently in an infection on February 14. XD (also known as "Deltracron") has been detected 50 times in Europe, predominantly in France and Belgium (it was last detected March 13).

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