- The disclosure of new Covid-19 variants emerging in China and the rise of a potentially more transmissible strain in Britain has recast the spotlight on the ongoing risk of the virus.
- The World Health Organisation said a hybrid of two Omicron strains – BA.1 and BA.2 that was first detected in Britain and dubbed XE could be the most transmissible variant yet.
- It is estimated to spread 10 per cent more easily than BA.2.
As covid cases continue to rise in China, WHO says that the hybrid XE variant could be the most transmissible variant. As stated in a recent article by The Star.
Emerging cases of covid
The disclosure of new Covid-19 variants emerging in China and the rise of a potentially more transmissible strain in Britain has recast the spotlight on the ongoing risk of the virus, even as health experts say there’s no reason to panic.
The World Health Organisation said a hybrid of two Omicron strains – BA.1 and BA.2 that was first detected in Britain and dubbed XE could be the most transmissible variant yet.
It is estimated to spread 10 per cent more easily than BA.2, which itself was more transmissible than the original Omicron famous for its ease of penetration.
Meanwhile, in China, which is experiencing its biggest outbreak since Wuhan, authorities have disclosed two novel Omicron subvariants that don’t match any existing sequences. It’s unclear if the infections were one-off events of little significance, or if they may be a sign of problems ahead.
“If the Chinese authorities’ efforts to constrain transmission are ineffective against a highly, highly transmissible virus, like an Omicron variant, this could become a threat for the rest of the world,” said Mr Rajeev Venkayya, a former White House biodefence adviser who became the chief executive officer of drugmaker Aerium Therapeutics in March. “We know that uncontrolled transmission of the virus can lead to more viral evolution and an evolution around vaccines and therapeutics,” potentially making them less effective, he said.
The continued circulation of Covid-19 nearly 2.5 years after it was first detected in China, driven by the development of mutations that allow infections to surge and deaths to batter the same locations again and again, remains a key issue for a world ready to live with the virus.
The US Food and Drug Administration is holding a hearing this week to discuss what booster shots will be needed and how to select which specific strains of the virus they should target.
The number of infections from these new variants is tiny given the scope of the outbreaks that are still happening worldwide, and scientists have documented the emergence of many variations that have gone nowhere. British health authorities have recorded more than 630 cases of XE, underscoring that more information is needed.
“We should monitor the new recombinants closely, but we should not panic at the moment,” said Dr Leo Poon, a virologist and University of Hong Kong professor who has tracked and written reports on the emergence of new strains.
It’s not unexpected to see Covid-19 recombinant variants, or a mix of two previous strains, particularly since the Delta and Omicron strains have been circulating widely, he said.
It’s likely that some people would be infected by both strains. If a variant were to be detected in multiple regions and was spreading in the community, then that would be of concern, he said.
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Source: The Star