Israel has detected an unknown novel Coronavirus variant, suspected of being caused by recombination of two omicron variants
On 16 March, the Ministry of Health in Israel announced that two new and previously unknown novel Coronavirus variants had been detected in the country.
The cases were detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on two passengers returning to Israel after they arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport. The Shamir Medical Center in Israel, which conducted the PCR tests, said that based on the test data, the variant was suspected to be a recombination of the ba.1 and BA.2 strains of omicron, with the characteristic variation of both strains. Relevant samples have been sent to the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Central Virus Laboratory for deep sequencing.
Those infected with the variant reportedly show symptoms such as low-grade fever, muscle pain and headaches, but do not require special treatment.
Nahman Ashe, director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry, told the media that the strain probably originated in Israel and the cases were likely infected when they left the country. Recombination of viruses is a common phenomenon and can occur when human cells are infected with two viruses at the same time, with the viruses exchanging genetic material as they multiply to produce a new virus, according to Salman Zaka, Israel’s chief COVID-19 official. At this stage, we are not concerned that it will lead to a serious situation.
According to a pre-print article published on 22 February by the National Serum Institute, part of the Danish Ministry of Health, it is possible for humans to be reinfected with the BA.1 variant of the Omicron strain for a short period of time, but this is rare. From the emergence of the Omicron strain in late November 2021 to February 2022, a total of approximately 2 million people in Denmark were infected with the strain, of which 67 were found to be infected with the BA.1 and ba.2 variants within 20-60 days of each other.
Earlier, on GitHub, a researcher reported on the GISAID International Novel Coronavirus Genome database that it had found up to 267 genome samples suspected to be recombinant variants of the Omicron ba.1 and Ba.2 strains in the UK and Ireland, and published the data on the variation. As reported by Forbes.com, suspected recombinant variants of the Omicron strain BA.1 and Ba.3 have been detected in the GISAID International Novel Coronavirus genome database, but the numbers are small, with only four samples detected in South Africa and one each in the United States and Puerto Rico as of 16 March.
It is unclear whether the unknown variant found in Israel is related to the related variant described on GitHub.