- A new recombinant variant has been discovered in the UK
- Recombinant means that it is a mixture of two strains.
- Currently, the BA.2 variant is the most common COVID-19 variant in the United States
In late March, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced a new COVID-19 variant called the XE.
According to the agency, this new variant is recombinant, meaning it is a mixture of two strains. In this case, highly contagious Omicron BA.1 is combined with the newer BA.2 variant.
“A total of 637 cases of XE – a recombinant of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 – have been confirmed in the UK so far,” reported UKHSA in late March. “The earliest of these has a trial date of January 19, 2022.”
As viruses mutate over time, recombinant variants are likely to occur.
“It’s already happened a few times, and usually the way it happens is that you have two circulating variants, someone can get infected with both at the same time, and then the virus will recombine with characteristics of both variants,” Carlos Malvestutto, MD, a specialist in infectious diseases at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline.
Malvestutto confirmed that so far there is no evidence that the XE variant is better at escaping immunity obtained by either previous infection or vaccination.
“We do not really see in these few cases seen in Britain, China, India; we can not see that it causes serious illness, ”he continued.
A big question is whether this recombinant variant is more transferable than other COVID-19 variants.
“It appears that the World Health Organization is citing estimates showing that XE is 10 percent more transferable than BA.2,” he said. Robert G. LahitaMD, Director of the Department of Autoimmune and Rheumatic Diseases at Saint Joseph Health and author of Immunity strong.
This comes as the Omicron COVID-19 variant BA.2 has led to increasing cases in the US. The variant accounts for 72 percent of COVID-19 cases, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
BA.2 cases were just 14 percent in early March, and the agency warns that they expect new COVID-19 variants to continue to emerge.
As variants emerge, they may affect how effective current treatments are against COVID-19.
Malvestutto said he doubts we will see a reduced efficiency of what is currently approved monoclonal antibody treatments because XE must still have characteristics of other Omicron types.
“Several times we have had to change monoclonal antibodies that worked against earlier variants that did not work against newer ones,” he said. “Now they’re the only ones we use – one called sotrovimabwhich worked well against Omicron BA.1, but the neutralizing activity of sotrovimab is not good against the BA.2 subvariant. “
He said that was why they have switched to
“It is not clear at this time whether there would be reduced activity of bebtelovimab, nothing I have seen suggests that at this time, but we are still waiting to see,” Malvestutto continued.
Lahita says he expects we’ll likely see new COVID-19 variants emerge, “like the flu.”
He also said he expects that if the disease becomes endemic; Healthcare providers will end up providing vaccines against both influenza and COVID.
“And they will both, including influenza, be messenger RNA-based,” he predicted.
He also predicts that we will ultimately rely on vaccines with mRNA from influenza and from all COVID variants.
Carl FichtenbaumMD, from the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said a virus’s infectivity does not indicate how dangerous it can be.
“It just means that in animal models and humans, the infection rate is higher,” he explained. “That does not mean it makes you sicker or more likely to be hospitalized.”
However, he warned that it is too early to know whether the XE variant will dominate over the current BA2 Omicron variant, which is very well-adapted.
“[We] need more time to see if it becomes a dominant load, ”he said.
A new, more contagious COVID-19 variant called XE has been identified, which has combined genetic information from both BA.1 and BA.2 variants. In early research, it appears to be more contagious than the Omicron BA.2 variant.
Experts say that increased infectivity does not mean that it is more dangerous and that current treatments are likely to remain effective.