Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Although COVID variants containing newer mutations continue to emerge naturally, the more SARS-CoV-2 circulates in our community, the greater frequency of mutations exponentially increases the odds for fatal variants. Unfortunately, the current variants of interest, including the most dominant Delta variant, seem to be fully utilizing this preventable opportunity (eligible individuals not getting vaccinated quickly enough) to exchange pieces of genetic material with unknown but potentially fatal implications.
Out of the two main processes for creating newer variants – replication and recombination – genomic recombination introduces more important modifications, potentially causing phenotypic changes of the virus. Two different recombinant mechanisms – strand switching and homologous recombination – are reported in SARS-CoV-2 and deemed responsible for creating newer variants. This process creates a higher risk of newer sub-variants of the dominant Delta variant emerging or a new recombinant virus with brand new phenotypes that make it more transmissible and dangerous.
If this process could be slowed, potentially through aggressive vaccination, and despite continuous natural mutations, it might accumulate to the point that it becomes hampered or even unable for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate and spread, possibly preventing the emergence of fatal variants.
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