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What is omicron XE? A look at the new COVID-19 variant spreading outside the U.S.

Omicron XE is a hybrid of two omicron variant strains

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An illustration of the coronavirus.

Omicron XE is a hybrid of two omicron variant strains

Illustration by Michelle Budge

A new COVID-19 variant has been dubbed “omicron XE” as it makes its way through the United Kingdom.

Driving the news: In recent weeks, the United Kingdom has seen a surge of coronavirus cases, some of which were caused by a hybrid of two omicron strains — BA.1 and BA.2.

  • Experts have dubbed this hybrid omicron variant as omicron XE.


Worth noting: “It is estimated to spread 10% more easily than BA.2, which itself was more transmissible than the original omicron famous for its ease of penetration,” per Bloomberg.

What they’re saying: The World Health Organization has acknowledged the variant and has issued warnings about its transmissibility, saying it spreads much faster compared to previous variants, per NDTV.

Flashback: Leaders in Israel discovered two travelers who had been infected by a variant that was a combination of the BA.1 (omicron) and infectious BA.2 (stealth omicron) variants, per Haaretz.

The bigger picture: Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency, said there’s no major reason to panic over the new variant yet, per NBC Chicago.

  • “This particular recombinant, XE, has shown a variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm whether it has a true growth advantage,” she said.
  • “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,” Hopkins said.
  • “As with other kinds of variant, most will die off relatively quickly.”