Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic.
The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant that originated in California and which may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies.
The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes.
Author(s): Graham Lawton
Publication Date: 16 February 2021
Publication Site: New Scientist
Experts told cleveland.com that although the virus may continue to mutate, there’s no reason to think it will render the vaccines ineffective. Pharmaceutical companies are already in the process of updating their vaccines to provide protection against the emerging variants, but the existing vaccines should provide enough protection to get the pandemic under control.
The prevalence of variants is partly the result of a global failure to contain the spread of COVID-19, experts said. The virus has had ample opportunity to evolve while infecting more than 100 million people worldwide.
Vaccines should limit the spread of infection, and that should reduce the chance that another concerning variant might emerge, said Gigi Gronvall, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. There will be even fewer chances for those mutations to occur if everyone who is still waiting for a vaccine continues to follow precautions like wearing face masks.
Author(s): EVAN MACDONALD AND JULIE WASHINGTON, CLEVELAND.COM
Publication Date: 10 February 2021
Publication Site: Governing