UK and California Covid variants ‘have merged into mutated virus’

Sean MorrisonTue, 16 February 2021, 9:49 pm


Two Covid-19 variants have reportedly merged into a mutated hybrid version of the virus, sparking warnings that the pandemic could be entering a new phase.

The hybrid virus was discovered in a sample at a US laboratory, and is the result of the “recombination” of a UK and California strain, scientists said.

It is not yet known how much of a threat the recombination could pose, but if confirmed it would be the first detected in the pandemic.

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

Bette Korber, a computational biologist at the laboratory which made the discovery, said there was “pretty clear” evidence of the hybrid.

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

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 – which can produce resistance to antibodies.

Recombination can bring together different mutations and lead to new, more dangerous variants.

The emergence of new Covid-19 variants recently has meant that people could be infected with two different strains at one time.

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

It could be up to 70 per cent more infectious than than the original strain, some scientists have warned.