South African woman first to test positive for XE Covid variant in India (Ld)

A woman costumes designer of South African origin has become the first person in India to test positive for the XE variant of Covid-19, the state health department and officials of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said here on Wednesday.

‘XE’ is a mutant hybrid of the two previous versions of the Omicron variant, BA.1 and BA.2, which is spreading across the world. It was first detected in the UK on January 19 and since then a few hundred sequences have been reported and confirmed.

The 50-year-old fully vaccinated patient, whose identity has not been disclosed as per norms, was part of a film shooting crew which arrived here from South Africa on February 10.

She had no previous travel history and as per the protocols, she underwent the regular tests, and tested Covid positive on February 27. Her lab sample was referred to the Kasturba Hospital Central Laboratory here.

The BMC said that during a routine testing by Suburban Diagnostics, the woman – jabbed with both doses of Comirnaty vaccine – tested positive again on March 2.

She was immediately quarantined at the Hotel Taj Land’s End in Bandra, where she recovered in a couple of days and another test conducted on her by Spice Health returned negative.

Given her recent foreign travel, the BMC had sent this sample for genome sequencing along with 230 other positive samples of which one was XE variant, one Capa and the rest were Omicron BA.2 variants, informed BMC Commissioner I.S. Chahal.

After the woman was detected with the XE Covid variant, her condition was described as asymptomatic and without comorbidities. All her highrisk contacts have tested negative and there is no cause for worry, assured Chahal.

This was among the 230 samples tested by the health authorities as part of its ongoing sero-survey series in which the XE variant emerged, while another was detected with the Capa variant.

The state health department said that on repeated RT-PCR testing, the woman has tested negative.

As per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) notification issued last week, the new XE variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, is a mutant hybrid of two other Omicron versions, BA.1 And BA.2, and accounts for a miniscule fraction of cases globally.

The WHO has said that the new mutant is around 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron.

The latest development has caused concerns in the health circles as Maharashtra is on the path of recovery and in the final stages of the ongoing third wave which started in December 2021.

Till date, the state has notched 78,74,690 Covid cases in the past over two years, along with 1,47,800 deaths, both highest in the country.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at:Aq.najmi@ians.in)

20220406-210021

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