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Testing

New Delhi: India reported Wednesday its first case of coronavirus variant ‘XE’. The positive patient was found in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said in a media release. One case of the ‘Kappa’ variant has also been detected. The patients with the new variants of the virus don’t have any severe symptoms so far. The new ‘XE’ mutant may be more transmissible than any strain of Covid-19, the WHO had said last week.

The Mumbai patient is a 50-year-old costume designer. She had gone on a tour to South Africa. The patient returned from South Africa in the last week of February. She tested positive for Covid-19 March 2, the BMC said in its release.

It should be stated here that the XE variant was detected January 19 in the United Kingdom. Britain’s health agency said April 3 that so far 637 cases of the new ‘XE’ variant have been reported in the country.

Also read: Israel detects combination of Omicron BA.1 & BA.2 sub-variants

‘XE’ is a ‘recombinant’ which is a mutation of BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains. Recombinant mutations emerge when a patient is infected by multiple variants of Covid-19. The variants mix up their genetic material during replication and form a new mutation, UK experts had said in a paper published in ‘British Medical Journal’.

WHO has said that the new XE variant appears to be 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron. With restrictions being relaxed in India, the new XE variant certainly poses a big threat. It remains to be seen, how the Centre and state governments tackle the new variant.

“Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2, however, this finding requires further confirmation,” the global health body had said.

Out of the 230 Mumbai patients whose samples were sent for genome sequencing, 228 are positive for Omicron, one Kappa and one XE. Twenty one of the total 230 patients had to be hospitalised, though none of them needed oxygen or intensive care. Twelve of those hospitalised were unvaccinated while nine had taken both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.