The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus may have been borne from a recombination of two earlier COVID-19 lineages, a new study suggests.

The study — available on the Research Square preprint platform ahead of peer review — said that the omicron variant is, potentially, a combination of two previous SARS-CoV-2 lineages.

  • Those lineages would have been BA.1 and B.35.
  • BA.1 is seen in around 4.17% of all COVID-19 sequences.
  • B.35, meanwhile, has only been seen in 0.0019% of sequences.
  • The BA.1 lineage is the parent lineage that, when combined with BA.35, created the current omicron variant.
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To find this, the researchers looked at more than 4,200 genome sequences from the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data repository and National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  • “The authors observed that in the origin and evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, at least one recombination event had occurred,” according to News Medical.

Why it matters: “To summarize, the recombination event is pivotal for the evolution and diversity of coronaviruses as it allows the viruses to adapt to new host environments and overcome selection pressure,” according to News Medical. “Therefore, research and public health measures should focus on these findings and target the recombination events to prevent the emergence of newer SARS-CoV-2 strains in the future.”

The bigger picture: More recently, the omicron variant seems to have split into another lineage, called BA.2, as I reported for the Deseret News.