Covid-19: could the new sub-variant XE trigger a new wave in Argentina?

This morning the Minister of Health of the city Fernan Quiros warned of imminent arrival to Argentina of XE, a new hybrid variant of Covid-19. “We haven’t detected it here yet, but it will definitely be here soon and it probably won’t generate meaning in the evolution of what we are already seeing and anticipating,” she said.

The official explained that today is nothing more than a new sub-variant of the omicron family and there is no evidence that it has a significant impact in relation to BA.1, which has already circulated in our country, and BA.2, which has a degree of circulation in the Municipality.

Specialists claim that the sub-variant XE would be 10% more transmissible than BA.2 and could produce a new wave of cases, but without major complications in the population vaccinated with the three doses.

“Ómicron has two variants: BA.1, the initial form, and BA.2, the one that currently predominates in the world. XE mixes genetic elements of both and it is not yet known whether it is more virulent. It was detected in the UK on January 19 and until March 22 was identified in 637 genomic studies, which still represent less than 1% of sequenced variants, “explained Martín Stryjewski, head of hospitalization at the Center for Medical Education and Clinical Research Norberto Quirno (Cemico).

The BA.2 variant, also known as “Secret Omicron”it was the most contagious strain in the family so far.

Infectologist Luis Cámera added: “Presumably more transmissible9% more was calculated [que la BA.2] , although it is very difficult to say such a thing when the percentage is so low. There have been only 600 cases in the UK to date. Of course the WHO still warns, but I wouldn’t be scared because it will follow the general behavior of omicron and all its sub-variants. If the population is vaccinated with three doses, it will be a tolerable disease with a mortality similar to that of the flu. “

“Is this possible in June and July we have a regrowth of omicron. We won’t be able to stop it, but we will be able to protect ourselves. The important thing is that we all vaccinate with three doses. As we have seen with the third wave, if one is well immunized there will be no major problemsexcept in people with very fragile health, “said Cámera.

According to Stryjewski, a situation similar to the outbreaks that are occurring in some European countries, such as France and the UK, is likely to be addressed later. “The XE variant appears to be 10% more transmissible than the BA.2 variant, which is 30% more transmissible than BA.1,” said the expert, a member of the Argentine Society of Infectious Diseases (SADI).

His colleague, Ricardo Teijeiro, expanded: “All of these variants, both XE and BA.2, which have started circulating in different countries such as the UK, Germany, Ireland and the US, have caused new waves with a lot of diffusion and little impact on health. The same is likely to happen here because traffic between these countries and Argentina is already very fluid and the possibility of having new waves is a reality. This is why we must constantly look at local epidemiology ”.

In the province of Buenos Aires, the use of the chin strap is no longer mandatory in workplaces, recreational spaces or schools in Buenos Aires
In the province of Buenos Aires, the use of the chin strap is no longer mandatory in workplaces, recreational spaces or schools in Buenos AiresGerardo Viercovic

Quirós’ statement coincides with a moment of easing of many of the measures imposed at the start of the pandemic to halt the advance of Covid-19. From this month all national border crossings will be reopened and from today the government of the province of Buenos Aires revoked the obligation the use of the chinstrap in schools, workplaces and recreational spaces.

Bárbara Broese, Director of Epidemiology at San Isidro Hospital, commented: “The truth is that we still don’t know how sub-variant XE will impact Argentina. On the one hand we are in an unfavorable situation due to the arrival of cold weather, but, on the other hand, the high vaccination rates put us in a more favorable context. We cannot predict whether we will have to lift the measures. We need to be vigilant and carry out genomic surveillance to find out if it is circulating ”.

Positive cases in the country continue to decrease. In the report of the Ministry of Health of the Nation, released yesterday, they notified it 2082 infections and 38 deaths. However, specialists warn that if there is a sustained increase in cases and hospitalizations per 100,000 population and the percentage of intensive care beds occupied by patients with Covid, it is likely that some measures will need to be temporarily lifted.

There is still a little to talk about the end of the pandemic, because we continue to see new waves and outbreaks of cases. It is not over yet, we will have to continue to take care of ourselves “, concluded Stryjewski, who together with SADI developed the platform “Influence Tracking”which allows to detect outbreaks of respiratory diseases, such as Covid and others.

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