Updated: May 2
As envisioned by many scientists based on several modeling approaches, the original Omicron variant is not the last concerning variant of SARS-CoV-2. Following Omicron and Omicron BA.2, different parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, Thailand, China, and India, have identified the fastest-spreading COVID-19 variant yet – 'Omicron XE.'
The XE variant was first detected in the UK in mid-January and has spread rapidly. Although the World Health Organization has not yet determined the severity of the threat, experts warn Omicron XE has all the potential to cause another COVID-19 surge.
Potentially originated from someone who was infected with both the original BA.1 variant and the more infectious BA.2 subvariant, the XE variant is the result of recombination between the two strains. It looks to have obtained the best of both – making it 10% more transmissible than the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, already the most contagious COVID-19 variant and one of the most contagious diseases in human history.
Significant research is still needed to draw any conclusion on transmissibility, severity, or vaccine effectiveness against the Omicron XE variant. However, since coronaviruses are notoriously known to recombine with other types of viruses, including influenza and rotaviruses, we need to be alert for the possibility of a more fatal recombinant virus with unexpected properties.