A sample of a new recombinant variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus, called Omicron XE, has been identified for the first time in the Miami-Dade area by a partner of AHF’s SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Sequencing Fund. This sample joins the list of 10 other reports of XE in Florida that have been posted to the GISAID platform, a global online database used by scientists performing genomic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 around the world to report on the dynamics of the virus.
“This is the first identification of the XE variant in the Miami-Dade area that we know of and highlights the continual evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in a mostly vaccinated population—along with the need for expanded molecular surveillance of SARS-CoV-2,” said Dr. Mario Stevenson, Director of the Institute of AIDS and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. “We need to know what we are dealing with if we are to mount an effective health care response to new variants that might exhibit increased pathogenicity or decreased susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 vaccine responses.”
The SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Sequencing Fund, which the AHF Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami launched in 2021, continues to support the expansion of existing genomic sequencing capacities and their introduction in places lacking such tools. The project puts an emphasis on genomic sequencing as an essential tool for containing and mitigating the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and any future pandemics.
Even though Omicron XE has been newly identified in the Miami-Dade area, the variant itself is not new – prior to last week, it was reported in 28 countries by different research institutes worldwide that submit data to the GISAID platform.
“AHF is currently supporting 15 genomic sequencing projects in 14 countries and has a partnership with GISAID to continue monitoring variants of SARS-CoV-2. We’ve also recently been approached to support genomic sequencing of the monkeypox virus,” added Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Executive Director of the AHF Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami. “We will be reviewing the proposals, because as scientists already know, viruses have the capacity to mutate to become either more or less dangerous. But to know that, proper genomic surveillance is needed in Miami-Dade, Florida, and across the globe.”