Home / Science / News /  Omicron+Delta recombinant hints emergence of supervirus, expert warns; explains key features of next COVID variant

Since Omicron and Delta recombinant virus came into the picture constant studies are being conducted to find out how potent or transmissible it could be. However, experts pointed out that hybrid variants need to be watched closely as they can pick up the best parts of both and quickly develop into a supervirus. “These recombinant variants provide some interesting clues to how this virus is going to evolve next," the expert further elaborates. 

Omicron and Delta recombinant picked best of both…

Scott Nguyen, bioinformatician at the Public Health Laboratory in Washington, told NPR, the variant seems to be optimizing the combinations – picking the best traits from each for infectiousness and immune evasion.

Nguyen found a recombinant variant that's mostly delta but contains the spike protein of omicron. "So a good chunk of the virus' spike protein is omicron but the body of the virus is still delta," Nguyen says. 

“From the variant’s perspective, it has the best of worlds."

Health officials, including those at the World Health Organization, are watching these hybrid variants closely. Because they demonstrate how the virus can take its most successful parts and combine them quickly into a supervirus. This process is called recombination, and it's how dangerous strains of flu are made, the NPR article also said. 

COVID-19 could be a recombinant virus

Experts also explained that recombination could be the reason for the emergence of COVID-19 itself. Scientists at the University of Glasgow published a study last month that indicates an animal in the Wuhan seafood market could have been co-infected with two coronaviruses at the same time – and that these two viruses recombined, just like omicron and delta are doing right now, to generate the initial version.

 "You know, early on in the pandemic, we were all expecting SARS-CoV-2 to not mutate too much," Scott Nguyen says. "But this virus has surprised us at every corner. So I think these recombinant variants provide some interesting clues to how this virus is going to evolve next" – and just how quickly the next variant of concern may appear.

More COVID circulates, the more it changes

Earlier this month, WHO's Dr Mike Ryan pointed out the more the virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to change. “The possibility of recombinants has always been on the table and we are able to detect these recombinants now with good sequencing around the world." 

“Recombination occurs when two viruses infect the same person or the same animal and what you then have is … effectively two viruses can exchange large amounts of genetic information and you effectively get a new virus out the other end … that is how we generate pandemics of influenza."

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