A “super-mutation” could effectively smash through any immunity built up by vaccinations. It comes after panic spread across the world when a new Covid strain, Deltacron, which is a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants, was discovered in Cyprus.
Epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs, from the Akkon University in Berlin, said of the risk of a super-mutation: “That could still happen if we don’t intensify our efforts soon to fight the pandemic globally by delivering vaccines to poor countries and thus helping to prevent the virus from circulating in large quantities.
“The larger the total amount of viruses, the greater the risk that further variants will develop through the combination of mutations.”
Ralf Reintjes, professor for epidemiology and health communication at the Hamburg University of Applied Science, added: “What we do know is that viruses mutate regularly.
“When viruses replicate in host cells, errors occasionally occur in the transcription of the virus’ genetic code.
“However, the new variant of the virus can sometimes have properties that make it more suitable for spreading in the population.
“We are currently experiencing this with Omicron.”
The warning comes after a new study found people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 could get “super immunity” against several variants, including Omicron and future mutations, if they get a breakthrough infection.
A research team from the Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) collected blood samples from 52 people who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer shot to test how strong their protection against the virus was.
Dr Marcel Curlin who led the study, said: “The key is to get vaccinated. You’ve got to have a foundation of protection.”
The team found that 26, the control group, did not have breakthrough infections, while the remaining 26 people did have mild cases of the virus after getting jabbed.
That included 10 participants with the Delta variant, nine who did not have the Delta variant and seven who had unknown variants.
The OHSU news release said: “The immune response is likely to be highly effective against other variants as the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate.
Senior study author Fikadu Tafesse, from OHSU, said: “Our study suggests that individuals who are vaccinated and then exposed to a breakthrough infection have super immunity.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg