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The UK has found 637 cases of an omicron XE variant in the country, and it’s a mix between the highly infectious BA.1 strain, which appeared late last year, and a new BA.2 variant, which is the country’s dominant omicron variant right now.
This situation is known as a “recombinant” – which is what happens when someone gets infected with two COVID variants at the same time. So what ends up happening is the variant’s genetic material is mixed with a patient’s body. Recombinants have already happened several times within the pandemic, and there isn’t enough data to figure out exactly how severe or transmissible this one is.
It’s been found in Thailand as well and comes at a time when China has also found a new strain called BA.1.1.
“This particular recombinant, XE, has shown a variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm whether it has a true growth advantage. So far there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness,” said UKHSA’s chief medical advisor, professor Susan Hopkins.