Mumbai Confirms Recombinant XE Variant of Omicron; Union Health Department denies

INSACOG has decided to undertake another round of genomic sequencing in a national laboratory for confirmation

INSACOG has decided to undertake another round of genomic sequencing in a national laboratory for confirmation

The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday refuted claims that India reported its first case of the COVID-19 variant, XE, in Mumbai. The rebuttal came shortly after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that the results of the 11th batch of next-generation genome sequencing conducted by it on 230 COVID-19 positive patients had found a case of the new sub. -variant of Omicron, XE.

The BMC noted that a 50-year-old patient, a professional costume designer and member of a film crew, who arrived from South Africa on February 10, 2022, had tested positive for XE. The civic body added that she was doubly vaccinated and tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival in India, but on March 2, 2022, during routine tests carried out by Suburban Diagnostics, she died. tested positive and quarantined. The result of the test carried out the next day was negative.

According to the BMC, out of 230 COVID-19 patients tested, 228 were infected with the Omicron variant while one was infected with the Kappa variant. Among them, 21 had to be hospitalized. None of them were in the intensive care unit (ICU) or needed oxygen.

A senior health official, however, maintained that “FactQ files regarding the sample, believed to be the XE variant, have been analyzed in detail by genomics experts from the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), who deduced that the genomic constitution of this variant is not correlated with the genomic image of the XE variant.

The BMC in its statement said: “The patient’s laboratory sample was referred to the central laboratory of Kasturba Hospital for whole genome sequencing. It turned out to be a new XE variant in the initial sequencing. Although GISAID also confirmed this, INSACOG decided to conduct another round of genomic sequencing at the national laboratory for sure confirmation of the XE variant.

“This lady is completely asymptomatic and was found to be RT-PCR negative on repeated testing. XE, a new variant of COVID, is a combination of Omicron’s BA.1 and BA.2 strains and has been shown to be responsible for enhanced viral transmission according to primary reports. Frequent changes in genomic structure are part of the natural life course of viruses and there is no need to be afraid, but everyone should take appropriate precautions,” the BMC said.

XE is a recombinant which is a mutation of the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains. According to experts, recombinant mutations appear when a patient is infected with several variants of a virus.

INSACOG is the forum that was set up under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by the Government of India on 30th December 2020 to monitor genome sequencing and viral variations of circulating strains of COVID-19 in India. The consortium verifies the status of variants of interest (VoI) and variants of concern (VoC) in the country; establishes sentinel surveillance and rapid surveillance mechanisms for the early detection of genomic variants; and helps formulate an effective public health response. It also determines the presence of genomic variants in samples taken during super-spreading events and in areas reporting an upward trend in cases/deaths, etc.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the new XE subvariant, saying it is more transmissible than any strain of COVID-19. There are a total of three hybrid or recombinant viruses that have been detected so far. These are XD, XE and XF, of which XD and XF are a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants. The XE variant is a hybrid of two versions of Omicron – BA.1 and BA.2.

The New Mutant XE first appeared in mid-January this year. The UK health agency said on April 3 that XE was first detected on January 19 and that 637 cases of the new variant had been reported in that country so far.

Maria J. Book