Experts cautiously optimistic about risks of Delta-Omicron mutations mix

By Our Reporter
Image courtesy of CSIRO

“If Delta marries Omicron, it will be very dangerous as Delta kills people, while Omicron’s transmissibility rate is really high”, chairperson of the South African Medical Association Dr Angelique Coetzee has warned. She was the first physician to raise alarm bells on the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus that’s spreading around the world including Australia.

In an interview to Indian Ahead News, Dr Coetzee also said, “Travel bans are not going to help but people should avoid being in crowds. It is very necessary to wear masks in public, avoid crowding and adhere to COVID-appropriate behaviour in order to protect oneself from the infection.”

Dr Angelique Coetzee
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UNSW Professor of biotechnology and biomolecular sciences Dr Peter White, has also warned about “the possibility of a super strain” in a Bloomberg interview.

However, latest research from Australia’s science agency CSIRO shows that while the ‘P681R’ mutation that’s behind the spread of the Delta, has indeed combined with the ‘N501Y’ mutation that is present in Omicron, Alpha, Beta and Gamma—this combination has not spread.

CSIRO’s COVID-19 project leader Professor S.S. Vasan who led this research said: “We looked at 4.2 million coronavirus genome sequences on GISAID from the start of the pandemic to 1 November 2021, and there were 3688 records that had both N501Y and P681R mutations. This combination was reported from 65 countries including India, but mainly in France, Turkey and USA, however virus variants containing both these mutations have not spread.” GISAID is the world’s largest repository of the corona virus genome sequences.

Prof S S Vasan

These results, which is still going through peer-review, has been made available on the medRxiv preprint server.

“Despite the selective advantages individually conferred by N501Y and P681R, the Y501+R681 combination counterintuitively did not outcompete other variants in every instance we have examined. This is a relief to worldwide public health efforts,” say the paper’s authors, which includes Ms Shruthi Mangalaganesh whom we have previously profiled on this portal.

These reports should calm down concerns about the possibility of the so-called ‘Delmicron’ superstrain that spreads faster than both Delta and Omicron.

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