COVID-19: India's first case of Omicron XE variant confirmed by INSACOG

The confirmation from INSACOG came after XE - a recombinant variant of BA.1 and BA.2 sub lineages of Omicron - was reported from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala

Published: 03rd May 2022 02:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd May 2022 06:16 PM   |  A+A-

The United States has improved its surveillance system for tracking new coronavirus variants such as omicron

Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Amidst a spike in Covid cases, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has finally confirmed the presence of Omicron's sub-variant XE, which is 10 percent more transmissible, in India.

The confirmation from INSACOG came after XE - a recombinant variant of BA.1 and BA.2 sub lineages of Omicron - was reported from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala. The Union health ministry has yet to comment on the variant.

In a bulletin dated April 25, INSACOG said one of the cases reported in India is that of the XE variant. However, INSACOG, jointly initiated by the Union Health Ministry and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in 2020, did not specify from which state the recombinant variant was reported.

In India, Omicron BA.2 is still the dominant variant to date.

BA.2, a version of Omicron reported globally, has propelled Covid-19 surges across Europe and the US.

INSACOG also said that BA.2.10 and BA.2.12 - BA.2 sub-lineages - have been detected, and "many old BA.2 sequences have been reclassified into these new sub-lineages."

So far, these sub-lineages are not reported to be associated with increased disease severity, it said.

The pan-India consortium of 38 laboratories to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 said that as compared to the previous week, 12 states have shown an increase in Covid cases. In contrast, 19 states have shown a decline.

On April 6, the Maharashtra government had said that the first case of XE was detected in Mumbai following genomic sequencing from a sample of a 50-year-old costume designer from South Africa.

But the Union health ministry had immediately denied the variant's presence in India.

Three days later, Gujarat also announced that the first XE case was detected after a man from Mumbai tested positive for Covid-19 during his visit to Vadodara. In Kerala also, one case of XE was seen on April 22.


All three cases were reported in March, but genomic sequence results came in the first week of April.

As Covid-19 cases started increasing in India in April soon after schools opened and many states lifted restrictions, including the mask mandate, genomic sequencing found eight variants of Omicron, including BA.2.12.

In the majority of sequenced samples in Delhi, which is reporting 45-50 per cent of all active cases in India, BA.2.12 was detected. Many of those who tested positive for Covid-19 in Delhi and the NCR region were school-going children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified BA.2 as a variant of concern.


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