UK and California Covid variants have merged into mutated virus say scientists sparking fears of new pandemic

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THE UK and California Covid variants have merged into a new mutated virus, scientists fear.

The apparent discovery in a US virus sample has sparked concerns the pandemic could enter a new phase.

UK and California Covid variants have merged into a mutated virus, scientists fearUK and California Covid variants have merged into a mutated virus, scientists fear
The 'recombination' event was discovered in a California laboratory

The ‘recombination’ event was discovered in a California laboratory

The “recombination” was discovered in California’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Scientist reports.

It’s not yet known how much of a threat the recombination could pose.

But if confirmed the recombinant would be the first detected in the pandemic.

Bette Korber, a computational biologist at the laboratory who made the discovery, told a meeting on February 2 held by the New York Academy of Science she had seen “pretty clear” evidence.

VARIANT FEARS

The reocmbinant carries a mutation from the Kent variant – known as B.1.1.7 – which makes the UK virus more transmissible.

It also carries another mutation from the California variant – known as B.1.429 – that can produce resistance to antibodies.

Ms Korber said: “This kind of event could allow the virus to have coupled a more infectious virus with a more resistant virus.”

It can lead to new, more dangerous variants, but it’s not clear how much of a threat this first recombination may be.

This kind of event could allow the virus to have coupled a more infectious virus with a more resistant virus

The emergence of new Covid variants recently has meant some people could be infected with two different strains, research has found.

Sergei Pond, a biology professor from Temple University, Pennsylvania who checks for recombinants by comparing thousands of genome sequences, said: “We may be getting to the point when this is happening at appreciable rates.”

He added there is no evidence yet of widespread recombination, but “coronaviruses all recombine, so it’s a question of when, not if”.

Dr Lucy van Dorp, from the Genetics Instiute at University College London, said she hadn’t heard about the recombinant yet, but “would not be overly surprised if some cases start to be detected”.

‘DAUGHTER’ VIRUS

Dr Marcus Blagrove, a virologist from the University of Liverpool, UK, who was involved in a study into using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict where the next coronavirus may emerge, has said: “We want to know where the next coronavirus might come from.

“One way they’re generated is through recombination between two existing coronaviruses.

“So two viruses infect the same cell and they recombine into a ‘daughter’ virus that would be an entirely new strain.”

The Kent Covid variant has swiftly become the most dominant in parts of the UK, having emerged only a few months ago.

It’s up to 70 per cent more infectious than than the original strain, scientists fear.