Scott went hunting. He found a variant of the coronaviruses that looked like a monster. The head of the omicron variant is stuck onto the body of the delta variant.
Scott is a bioinformatician at the Public Health Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
He says that he and a group of scientists around the world are variant hunters.
In order to find strains that could shift the course of the epidemic, or simply give scientists a better understanding of how the virus evolved, variant hunters look through millions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence in a massive database.
A variant hunter found a set ofmutations from a variant in South Africa.
A new class of variant that mix together parts of delta and omicron was detected early one morning in February. Randomly put together, not just any parts. The virus seems to be picking the best combinations for infectiousness and immune evasion.
There is a variant of the virus that has a small piece of the spikeProtein of omicron on it.
This variant is rare so far. Scientists have found it in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. There are probably many of these deltracrons out there. In the U.S., they have been found by scientists in San Mateo.
The World Health Organization is watching the hybrid variant closely. They show how the virus can combine successful parts into a superviruses. Recombination is how dangerous strains of flu are made.
Dr. Mike Ryan with the World Health Organization said on Friday that recombination is the way in which we get flu epidemics.
Omicron's spikeProtein is used to hide the virus from our immune system. The delta variant is wearing an invisibility cloak.
The variant thinks it has the best of worlds.
How does the virus do this? How does it create a hybrid?
A person needs to be exposed to both omicron and delta in a short period of time.
From November to February, Luo and her colleagues analyzed samples from nearly 30,000 Americans who had been exposed to the disease. They found 20 people with the same disease. They were both victims of the same disease.
Omicron happened around Christmas and New Year, when there were many social gatherings.
The virus can end up doing recombination if the two different versions of the virus are able toinfecting the same cell at the same time. A chunk of genes is taken from another variant during replication. The delta variant is similar to part of omicron's genetic code.
You can change a single letter in a document, but you can also copy and paste. One variant takes a big chunk of text from the other variant.
It shows how the virus can be changed by grabbing chunks of code instead of just single letters.
It has been known for a while that coronaviruses have a lot of recombination. This is the first time we have seen so much evidence that it is happening.
Recombination may be the reason for the existence of SARS-CoV-2. Scientists at the University of Glasgow published a study in which they speculated about the origins of the disease. Their analysis shows that an animal in the market could have been co-infected with two coronaviruses at the same time, just like omicron and delta are doing right now, to generate the initial version.
Scott Nguyen says that early on in the pandemic, we were all expecting the virus to not change much. I think these recombinant variants give some interesting clues to how this virus is going to evolve next and how quickly the next variant of concern may appear.