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Could omicron and delta team up to make a super variant? It’s possible, experts say

The omicron variant and the delta variant could swap genes, creating a new super variant in the process

SHARE Could omicron and delta team up to make a super variant? It’s possible, experts say
The virus that causes COVID-19.

This undated electron microscope image shows the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists are worried the omicron and the delta variant could link up and create a new super variant.

NIAID-RML via Associated Press

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is on track to be the dominant strain of the virus in the United States, replacing the highly transmissible delta variant.

  • Scientists are worried, though, that the omicron and the delta variant could link up and create a new super variant.

For example, Moderna Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton told the U.K. Parliament’s science and technology committee this week that it was possible for delta and omicron to link up to become a super variant.

  • “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 said, according to the Daily Mail.
  • “That would be possible here, particularly given the number of infections that we were seeing.”

This would be done through recombination, which is when two virus strains mix together. It often happens when two virus strains infect someone at the same time.

Genomics scientist Mike Bunce, who works at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, said there could be a recombination that will result in a mutant virus, per News Hub.

  • “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,” Bunce said, according to News Hub.

So far, early data suggest that the omicron variant leads to less severe symptoms compared to previous variants of the coronavirus, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • Experts are advising people to get vaccinated and grab their COVID-19 booster shots in order to stay safe from any potential new variants.