The Omicron variant will be dominant in Britain until January, and Paul Burton, chief physician of Moderna, warned that the large number of new variations in combination with the existing Delta increases the risk of a new hyper-variant.
Such a possibility, although rare, can occur when both strains infect someone at the same time.
SARS-CoV-2 infections usually involve only one mutant, but in rare cases two – possibly from different sources – can infect a person at the same time.
If they also infect the same cell, then they may be able to exchange DNA and create a new version of the virus.
Burton told the Science and Technology Committee that it would “definitely” be possible to exchange genes and activate an even more dangerous variant.
Something similar did not happen when Delta coexisted with Alpha
Researchers have warned that these events, scientifically called “recombination events”, are possible but require very specific conditions and the coincidence of mostly uncontrolled events.
Only three Covid strains created from genes that exchange viruses have ever been recorded, with the virus relying mainly on random mutations to make more variants.
A new variant was not born during the two months that the Delta strain competed with Alpha through this method.
Most likely in Britain
Omicron already dominates London, just two weeks after it was spotted in the country, and experts estimate that it will be the main executive until the New Year.
Dr. Burton said the release of the two variants together increases the risk of exchanging genes and creating a new variant.
“It simply came to our notice then. Studies have also been published in South Africa that say that humans – and certainly immunocompromised humans – can harbor both viruses.
“This would be possible here, especially given the number of infections we have seen.”
Asked if this could lead to a more dangerous variant, he said he “certainly could”.