US researchers say they have detected a hybrid version of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, in which the British and Californian variants are combined. Experts believe that it may be responsible for the current wave of infections that is taking place in Los Angeles since its mutations make it more transmissible and especially resistant to antibodies. The report, published in New Scientist, argues that these two variants of the British- the coronavirus and California have combined their genomes to form a hybrid version of the SARS-CoV-2 with important mutations. Although at no time has he been able to guarantee that the combination of strains is more dangerous than any of the variants of the virus known so far.
The hybrid virus has been identified by Bette Korber, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who claims to have found fairly clear evidence in her database of viral genomes in the United States, before warning that the pandemic Could enter a new phase. Recombination could have allowed a more infectious virus and a more resistant virus to be coupled, he summarized. The UK variant generates a higher viral load in the blood, which implies an increase in its transmission capacity. In fact, the original version of the virus was first detected in Wuhan. For its part, the California mutation offers greater resistance to antibodies.
Something Very Common In Coronaviruses
If confirmed, this recombination would be the first detected. In December and January, two research groups independently reported that they had not seen any evidence of recombination in the SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the United States, despite this being an expected occurrence as it is common in coronaviruses.
Recombination could lead to the emergence of new variants, some of which could be even more dangerous, although it is not yet clear what degree of the threat this possible first recombination event could pose. Korber has only managed to identify a single recombinant genome among thousands of sequences, and it is not known whether the virus is transmitted from person to person or is a specific event.
There is no evidence of generalized recombination, says Sergei Pond, professor of biology at Temple University (United States), in the publication New Scientist, although he assures that we may be reaching the point where it is being produced at an appreciable rate. As he makes clear, all coronaviruses recombine, so the question is not if it will happen, but when it will happen.
Another researcher, Lucy van Dorp, from University College London, says that she has not yet heard of the hybrid version of SARS-CoV-2, but that she would not be surprised if some cases started to be detected. The World Health Organization (WHO) is already on the trail of the new recombined virus, although the finding remains surrounded by uncertainty. The head of the technical team for COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhov e, has assured on Twitter that WHO is investigating it, but we need more information.