TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — While the United States has proceeded to moving past the COVID-19 pandemic, when it comes to daily life and precautions. Across the Atlantic and in the United Kingdom, a new COVID-19 variant, a combination of the BA.1 and BA.2 versions of Omicron, has been detected and dubbed XE.
Unofficially, due to its fusion status, the new XE variant of COVID-19 is being called “Frankenstein.”
Toward the end of March, the UK’s Health Security Agency said about 637 cases of XE had been detected through genomic sequencing. However, there were two other versions of the “Frankenstein” version, called XF and XD. All three combination variants are what are called “recombinants” as a result of hteir mixed genetic material.
While XE is a fusion of Omicron BA.1 and the “stealth” version, BA.2, the XF and XD variants are reportedly combinations of the Delta variant and Omicron BA.1, according to UKHSA. The Frankenstein version was first detected in January, according to UKHSA.
“Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence, particularly when there are several variants in circulation, and several have been identified over the course of the pandemic to date,” Dr. Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, UKHSA, said. “As with other kinds of variant, most will die off relatively quickly.”
Hopkins said in a statement published by UKHSA that the XE recombinant has shown what they call a variable growth rate, and the health agency has yet to confirm if it has a “true growth advantage.”
Research in the U.K. shows that the XE variant, the Frankenstein, has about a 10% higher transmissibility rate than stealth Omicron, according to data compiled by UKHSA.
As a result, it is so far unclear how severe the variant is, or how transmissible or severe it will be for patients. So far the Frankenstein variant does not appear to have been detected among COVID-19 cases in the United States.
While not yet detected in the U.S., reports in multiple publications have found XE detected in India and Thailand
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet have published data on any of the recombinant variants in America. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said the number of new COVID-19 cases had declined 16%, as of April 3. The international organization said it is tracking multiple recombinant variants, but noted the spread of some were still low.
WHO reported “the evolution rate and the risk of the emergence of new variants, including recombinants, is still very high.”
They recommend close monitoring for health risks associated with the variants, and promised updates as more evidence becomes available. Reported deaths globally were reported to have “decreased sharply” by 43% from March 28 to April 3, as compared to the previous week.
A tracker of variants across the U.S. and their proportions is updated as of March 12, when looking state-by-state. The data available can be found online. As of data through April 2, the stealth variant of Omicron, BA.2, is the reported dominant strain of the virus in the U.S., accounting for about 72% of cases.