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First XE Covid variant case in Mumbai? INSACOG claims genome sequencing doesn’t say so

INSACOG, India’s genomics consortium, on Wednesday claimed that the samples detected in Mumbai, which is said to have the XE strain of Covid-19, do not suggest the presence of the variant after genomic sequencing of the case. This comes soon after Mumbai authorities said that the city has reported India’s first case of the XE variant, which is a mutation of the strains of the Omicron variant and touted to be highly transmissible.

Issuing a press release, the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation said of the 230 samples from Mumbai, 228 samples are of the Omicron variant and one patient is infected by the ‘Kapa’ subtype, while the other is by the ‘XE’ subtype of Covid-19.

Sources in the INSACOG, which conducted the genomic analysis of the sample, told CNN-News18 that evidence does not suggest that the sample has the XE variant.

“FastQ files in respect of the sample, which is being said to be ‘XE’, variant were analysed in detail by genomic experts of INSACOG who have inferred that the genomic constitution of this variant does not correlate with the genomic picture of ‘XE’ variant,” the sources said. INSACOG is a national consortium of 52 institutions involved in genome sequencing of the coronavirus.

A top official at INSACOG reiterated to CNN-News18 that XE Variant is not detected in India, adding that the referred sample belongs to the period of March 2, 2022.

Reacting to the development, BMC said that at Wednesday’s INSACOG meeting, “we have been asked to send the sequencing data to NIBMG (National Institute of Biomedical Genomics) for further analysis to confirm the XE variant”.

XE variant was first detected in the UK on January 19. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the XE recombinant only accounts for a small fraction of the cases, but its extremely high transmissibility could mean that it becomes the most dominant strain in the near future.

What the Mumbai civic body said
In a statement, Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation said that of the 230 Covid-infected patients, one was infected with the XE strain and another with the Kapa variant. Twenty-one patients had to be hospitalised, but none required oxygen support. The genome sequencing of the total 376 samples was conducted at the municipal Kasturba Hospital’s Genome Sequencing Lab in Mumbai.

The XE variant patient, a 50-year-old woman, had arrived in Mumbai from South Africa on February 10, according to the civic body. She was fully vaccinated, asymptomatic, and had no comorbidities. As per the details received, the patient is a costume designer by profession and was a part of a shooting crew. She had no travel history prior to this.

As per the government guidelines, upon her arrival to India, a Covid-19 test was done in which she tested negative. However, a routine test was done on March 2 in which she was found positive for the infection and was quarantined in a hotel in Mumbai. She tested Covid negative the next day.

Mumbai becomes first in vaccinating all adults
Meanwhile, all eligible beneficiaries above the age of 18 years in Mumbai have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the city civic body announced on Tuesday. The BMC said it has administered 92,42,888 second doses as on Tuesday against the original target of 92,36,500.

BMC executive health officer Mangala Gomare confirmed that Mumbai has achieved the full vaccination milestone, more than 14 months after the nationwide roll-out of the coronavirus inoculation drive. “So far, 1,02,96,917 first doses have been administered in the 18 plus segment, achieving 111 per cent vaccination of this age group. In the 12 plus population, the city has achieved 93 per cent vaccination,” an official said.

So far, 94,92,511 people have been given second dose of the vaccine out of the originally targeted 1,02,44,843 people, the official added. News18

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