Chennai: The World Health Organization recently warned of the new subvariant of SARS COV-2 -XE as it may be more transmissible than any other subvariant so far. However, the variant has not been declared a variant of concern and severity is yet to be established.
"The XE variant is a sub-variant of Omicron and recombination of sub-variants is common. The transmissibility, severity and change in the existing protocol of management and treatment decides if a subvariant is of concern. More transmissibility makes it a variant of interest as cases are likely to increase. XE is 10 per cent more infectious than Omicron BA.2 as per laboratory studies. We are yet to establish research evidence based on human studies. It might become the dominant variant of the virus if the cases increase in future," said Dr Srinivas Rajagopala, senior consultant, interventional pulmonology and sleep medicine, Kauvery Hospital.
He further said that the vaccination rate against Covid is good and people have been exposed to the virus, so the risk of being infected is low and don't expect it to be very severe in nature, However, people with comorbidities, and elderly persons should take precautionary booster dose as they have a higher risk of getting affected due to the virus, he added.
Experts say that the other variants XA, XB, XC, and XD have already been reported and were not of major concern. The severity of the XE subvariant is yet to be established. As XE is expected to be slightly more transmissible, which is about 10 per cent than BA.2, we have seen most of the BA.2 cases during the third wave when the Omicron variant was dominant. As per the WHO report, the subvariant XE belongs to the Omicron variant until significant differences in transmission and disease characteristics, including severity, may be reported.
"Since the XE subvariant belongs to the Omicron family, there seems to be not much concern due to the sub-variant. The occurrence of recombinant sub-variants of viruses is very common and nothing to panic about. The vaccines are effective against the Omicron variant and thus, they are likely to remain effective against this sub-variant," said senior virologist Dr Jacob John.
He further said that the severity of the sub-variant is not established but 10 per cent of more cases than the Omicron BA.2 variant are not a major concern for the State to handle.
Meanwhile, the State Health Department emphasizes that the need to test, track, follow safety protocols and vaccinate is significant. Health secretary J Radhakrishnan said that there are no cases of XE reported in Tamil Nadu, and the public need not panic over this. He added that the cases are low in the State currently but the public should follow all the safety protocols and not become complacent.
On Wednesday, a case of XE subvariant of Omicron was reportedly recorded in Mumbai. However, the Union Health Ministry later denied it to be the XE subvariant.