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SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to evolve and mutate, creating new variants. Various variants of the virus have emerged since it started spreading among people around more than two years ago. These include Alpha (first detected in UK), Beta (first detected in South Africa), Gamma (first detected in Brazil); Delta (first detected in India), and Omicron, which is currently the dominant variant circulating globally. The Omicron variant has further developed into a variety of sub-variants that are currently spreading all over the world.
How long Omicron variants will continue to circulate? They may burn themselves out in the next couple of months, suggested researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
However, the researchers cautioned the Delta variant, which was blamed for the devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in India, might return after Omicron is gone.
In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment, the Israeli research team pointed out that until now, whenever a new, dominant, variant of COVID-19 appeared, it overpowered its predecessor after a short parallel period. For example, Delta wiped out the variants that preceded it.
However, the dynamics of the Omicron variant showed different characteristics, and it did not eliminate its predecessor, Delta, they said.
They monitored Beer-Sheva's sewage from December 2021 to January 2022 to understand the interaction between the Omicron and Delta variants. They then created a model, which predicted that Omicron is burning itself out while Delta is just biding its time.
"Of course, there are a lot of factors involved, but our model indicates there could be another outbreak of Delta or another coronavirus variant this summer," warned Prof. Ariel Kushmaro at BGU, as quoted by IANS.
Further, their model showed that the Omicron levels will decrease until it is eliminated, but the Delta variant will maintain its cryptic circulation.
If this happens, it "may result in the reemergence of a Delta morbidity wave or in the possible generation of a new threatening variant", the researchers added.
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