New COVID variant XE: Symptoms, is it in Australia, how contagious is it and everything to know about the new XE COVID-19 variant

A new COVID-19 sub-variant, known as XE, has emerged.

Health authorities have detected 637 cases of XE in England, and the variant has also recently been found in Thailand.

Relatively little is known about XE, but here’s what we know so far.

The Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 – also known as 2019-nCoV – is shown under a microscope. The virus causes COVID-19. (AP)
XE is a mixture of the two Omicron variant sub-types BA.1 and BA.2. The BA.2 variant has also been known as the ‘Stealth’ variant.

And XE is being called a ‘recombinant’?

That’s right. A recombinant just means the variant is a mixture of two different viruses or variants, and has characteristics of both.

What are the characteristics?

In short, XE has a BA.2 Omicron lineage with a piece of BA.1 at the front end of its genome. Its spike is BA.2.

Is it more transmissible?

With little data, it’s too soon to know.

However, on March 29, the World Health Organisation noted XE may have a growth advantage of 10 per cent over the currently dominant BA.2 Omicron sub-variant.

That means it could spread faster and more easily. The key word there is “could”.

Again, too soon to know but it seems unlikely.

“I would not be unduly concerned at this stage,” Andrew Freedman, an infectious diseases expert from Cardiff University, told Newsweek.

Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence.

Keep an eye out for the usual symptoms that could indicate you have the virus; runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat, fever, cough and loss of taste or smell.

And will vaccines work against XE?

There’s not enough data to gauge XE’s severity or vaccine effectiveness.

Has XE been detected in Australia?

There’s no suggestion XE has entered Australia yet. It was first detected in the UK on January 19 and Thailand in early April.

If XE becomes more dominant, expect it to move around the world, including Australia.

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