Sign In
  • ENG

Omicron Is A Result Of Adaptive Evolution, Not A Recombinant Of Previous Variants: Scientists

A new study has ruled out the theory of recombination of previous variants in the origin of Omicron, stating that the highly transmissible variant is likely the result of an evolutionary process.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : January 28, 2022 11:23 AM IST

A research team from Pennsylvania State University has for the first time identified the origin of Omicron and described the genomic profile of the highly contagious variant of SARS-CoV-2. Omicron diverged from the previous SARS-CoV-2 variants as a result of adaptive evolution, in which beneficial mutations are passed onto future generations through natural selection, rather than through recombination between previous variants, they said in a study, published in the journal Nature.

Three major variants of SARS-CoV-2

In about 16 months, we saw three major variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerged - Alpha, Delta and Omicron. This is very surprising as other viruses do not make such repeated big evolutionary leaps, said lead author Maciej Boni, Associate Professor of biology, Pennsylvania State University.

Boni pointed out that Omicron is extraordinary as it made even bigger jump in the evolution of its spike protein, compared to previous variants. Its spike protein has more than 30 mutations, many of which are known to influence host antibody neutralisation.

Also Read

More News

Omicron likely the result of an evolutionary process

Omicron falls within the B.1.1 lineage, which also includes the Alpha variant, but Omicron is genetically distinct from Alpha, and any other known variants of interest. The team came to this conclusion after analysing all 686 Omicron sequences that were available by December 7, 2021.

The team then applied a selection analysis to the Omicron sequences and found evidence of positive natural selection in many genes since the variant split from other B.1.1 lineages.

Based on their finding, Boni suggested that "Omicron is likely the result of an evolutionary process that created a highly transmissible virus that partially evades our antibody responses."

The researchers, however, ruled out recombination of previous variants in the origin of Omicron.

Boni added that they found no convincing evidence to support the theory of it being a recombinant of previous SARS-CoV-2 variants.

No evidence that Deltacron has occurred

Recently, there has been reports suggesting that the Omicron and Delta variants have recombined to create a 'Deltacron' super variant.

On this, Boni said, "such recombination is in fact possible, but there is currently no evidence that this has occurred."

Some samples of Omicron in the study displayed weak evidence of having inherited genetic material from a Delta virus. Even statistical analyses could not rule out random chance or small sequencing errors as causes of this curious recombination signal, the researcher noted.

If such recombination does occur, it is not possible to know what the properties of such a virus would be in terms of its ability to transmit and/or cause severe disease, among other factors, Boni added.

Total Wellness is now just a click away.

Follow us on