Two Omicron variants were only combined to create ‘XE’, a ‘Frankenstein’ COVID Virus

The first minor variant of Omicron, the latest major variant of the new coronavirus, is terrible. BA.1 has driven record cases and hospitalizations in many countries starting last fall.

The second subvariable, BA.2, is worse in some countries – setting new records for daily cases across China and parts of Europe.

Now BA.1 and BA.2 have combined to create a third sub-variable. XE, as it is known, is a “recombinant” – the product of two “Frankenstein”-type interacting viruses in a single host.

With its long list of mutations, XE is possibly the most contagious form of coronavirus. Stephanie James, head of the COVID testing lab at the University of Regis in Colorado, told The Daily Beast: “According to the WHO report, it appears to be slightly more beneficial in terms of transmissibility.

But don’t panic. The same mix of sub-variables generated VEHICLES can also protect we from it. Coming very quickly after the surge of BA.1 and BA.2 cases, XE is well on its way to achieving a natural immune wall — antibodies left over from past infections in the hundreds of million people.

Those natural antibodies, plus the additional protection afforded by various COVID vaccines, could reduce the impact of XE. For that reason, many experts worry less about the XE and more about any variations or sub-variants that may come after the XE.

A health worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a resident in Bangkok. Health officials have also detected XE in Thailand.

Teera Noisakran / Getty

And rest assured, that the extra variable in the future is coming. “COVID-19 continues,” Eric Bortz, a virologist and public health expert at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, told The Daily Beast.

Testers first spotted the XE in the UK in mid-January. Six weeks later, UK authorities have identified 600 cases of XE infection. Those cases are a significant drop from the millions of BA.1 and BA.2 cases the UK has tallied up over the past three months. But the XE stands out.

According to the World Health Organization, XE is 10% more contagious than BA.2, and is up to 80% more contagious by itself than BA.1, an epidemiologist describes as a type the most contagious respiratory virus they had ever seen when it was first. appeared in South Africa in November.

There’s a lot of uncertainty about the XE. The WHO stressed that its own findings on the secondary variable “needs further confirmation.” But for what we think we know, it seems likely that XE evolved in someone with BA.1 and BA.2 infections, when two separate but related viruses swapped genetic material transmission.

“We don’t have a roadmap.”

XE is not the first COVID recombinant — there have been at least two others, including the so-called “Deltacron” subvariable arising from simultaneous Delta and BA.1 infections. But with two highly contagious parent viruses, XE has the potential to become the fastest-spreading recombinant. Health officials have also detected XE in Thailand.

Secondary variable do not have appeared in the US trials. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t reached US shores yet. Rob Knight, head of the genetic computing lab at the University of California, San Diego, told The Daily Beast: “It probably wouldn’t be detected by the standard analytical pipeline. Major new forms of SARS-CoV-2 may require modification of testing methods.

XE is a nasty bug, potentially with dozens of mutations to its mutated protein, the part of the virus that helps it attach to and infect our cells. And it’s a powerful reminder that the pandemic isn’t over yet. Even with widespread natural immunity and a safe and highly effective vaccine, SARS-CoV-2 continues to find the defenseless — and the opportunity to thrive.


A woman walks past a billboard advertising vaccinations at Westminster Station in London. Testers first spotted the XE in the UK in mid-January. Six weeks later, UK authorities have identified 600 cases of XE infection.

Tejas Sandhu / Getty

But it’s not 2020 anymore. The new coronavirus has changed, but so have we. Each successive wave of infections — Alpha then Delta, then both major forms of Omicron — seeded the population with natural antibodies that provided strong, albeit temporary, protection against these pathogens. worst impact of future infection by a related virus.

Meanwhile, the leading vaccines have adapted to each new variant and subvariant, especially when you add a booster dose or two.

Even as more and more countries fully reopen schools, businesses and borders, the peak mortality rate from the COVID wave continues to decline in many countries. Cases can increase when some of the subvariables are newer than the previous ones and become dominant. But deaths do not necessarily increase at the same rate — a phenomenon epidemiologists call “segregation.”

Partial separation is a function of the time between waves. Natural antibodies from past infections may begin to fade after three months. But if two variants or sub-variants attack each other within a few months, the second strain collides with the residual immunity from the first strain. strains — especially if the strains are related. Meanwhile, the second strain produces antibodies that can mitigate the worst outcome of the next strain stress, assuming it comes fast enough.

That’s why Omicron infected more people than the previous variant, Delta, but killed less. And why many experts consider XE less scary than BA.2 or BA.1. “Immune responses to XE should be similar to those for Omicron,” says Bortz. “People who have a previous Omicron infection and are vaccinated will mostly be immune.”

At the same time, a large gap between distinct variants — that is, a long stretch of time from COVID — can actually be more dangerous for a population than continuous waves of related strains. .

There is another risk. We were lucky with the major and minor variants before XE, in that the leading vaccines worked really well against all of them. Experts are cautiously optimistic that these thrusts also work against XE. “XE, as you say, is said to be more contagious than BA.2 [or] BA.1, “Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist at the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida, told The Daily Beast, “but it doesn’t appear to be more serious or unlikely. immunity”.

But if some new variant, maybe even a recombination of XE and some other strain, will eventually mutate in a way that helps it avoid the vaccine. and up to three months or so after the previous overtime, we could be in trouble.

“Although more transmissible mutations have emerged and spread so far, it is also possible that a type of mutation that is both infectious and immune-evasive emerges,” said Michael. In that case, neither of our approaches to building immunity at the population level – vaccines and natural antibodies – could prevent a dramatic increase in deaths.

Peter Hotez, an expert in vaccine development at Baylor College, told The Daily Beast: “We should expect some extra variables to come into play, but which ones accelerate – and where – at the moment it seems. as unrecognized. “We don’t have a roadmap.”

To reduce the likelihood of worst-case outcomes, we need to reduce the chance of a genetic mutation in the coronavirus. That means shrinking the unprotected population. How We can do this is obvious. “Vaccines are the best way to prevent serious illness,” says James.

Getting stabbed doesn’t just protect you as an individual against serious infection — it also protects those around you from any new, subvariant, or recombinant variants you might mutate. variable in your own body’s laboratory. Two Omicron variants were only combined to create ‘XE’, a ‘Frankenstein’ COVID Virus

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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