Can Omicron and Delta unite to create an even worse COVID-19 variant? Expert has the answer

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Dec 18, 2021, 06:29 PM IST
main img
The scientists found out that the kidney tissue from the COVID-19 patients showed much more tissue scarring than others Photograph:(Others)

Story highlights

Moderna chief medical officer Paul Burton said it was "certainly" possible Omicron and Delta could team up

The current situation of the United Kingdom is a grim picture of the country where the Omicron variant of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly. It is also a warning to the world to not neglect the safety measures such as using face masks, social distancing, vaccination, sanitisation, etc. 

The UK is one of the hardest-hit countries as the British government reported 93,045 new coronavirus cases on Friday (December 17), a third consecutive record daily tally, as the Omicron Covid variant fuels a surge in infections. 

Fearing the spread of the Omicron variant, the United States President Joe Biden warned of a "winter of severe illness and death" for those unvaccinated against Covid. The G7 called the Omicron variant the biggest threat to global public health.

The world has already faced the lethal Delta variant and is currently facing the latest Omicron variant, which is quite new for the scientists to understand its nature and mutations. But what if the Delta and Omicron variants combine? Will it create a super strain of COVID-19? 

Early data on Omicron variant suggests it can be more resistant to vaccines and is more transmissible than the Delta variant. Countries worldwide have begun advising against foreign travel. 

Recently, Moderna chief medical officer Paul Burton said it was "certainly" possible Omicron and Delta could team up and create a more dangerous strain. His remark came when he was speaking to the UK Parliament's science and technology committee this week. 

ALSO READ | Bolsonaro threatens disclosing names of officials who approved Covid jabs for children


"There's certainly data, there have been some papers published again from South Africa earlier from the pandemic when people - and certainly immunocompromised people - can harbour both viruses," he was quoted as saying by Daily Mail. "That would be possible here, particularly given the number of infections that we were seeing," he added. 

He said that there is possible that Delta and Omicron could swap genes and trigger a variant, which is even more lethal. These events are scientifically called 'recombination events'. Researchers have warned that recombination is possible but it requires very specific conditions and the coincidence of mostly uncontrollable events.

New Zealand's genomics scientist Mike Bunce of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research said recombination could result in a mutant combo virus. "Using genomics, there remains a lot of scrutiny of Omicron and Delta including the possibility of the variants 'merging'… which can occur if infected with both variants at the same time," he said as quoted by Newshub. 

"The genomics of Omicron came as a surprise to many working in the field as it looks as if the Alpha variant went into hiding (for about 12 months) and then reappeared with a new game plan," Dr Bunce added. 

Virologist Sarah Palmer of Sydney's Westmead Institute recently tol ABC News that the Omicron shows signs of being the result of the Alpha and Delta strains sharing genes. "We're very, very concerned," she said. 

(With inputs from agencies)