October 4, 2022

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Israeli Study Shows Omicron did Not Wipe out Delta Variant

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According to a new scientific paper from researchers at the Ben-Gurion University (BGU) at Beersheba, the Omicron variants of COVID-19 may burn out in the next few months, but the Delta variant may actually re-emerge. Science of the Total Environment is the name of the peer-reviewed journal that published the findings of the researchers. The title of the paper was ‘Managing an evolving pandemic: Cryptic circulation of the Delta variant during the Omicron rise’. Alpha was the first variant of the coronavirus to make an appearance in 2019 and then came the Beta variant that had first been found in South Africa. 

As for the Gamma variant, it had been detected in Brazil and then came Delta that had first been identified in India. The milder, yet more infectious Omicron was the last to appear, even though it has developed a number of sub-variants and has spread all over the globe. While the Delta variant had managed to wipe out all the variants that had come before it, Omicron was not able to do the same to it Dr. Karin Yaniv and Prof. Ariel Kushmaro came to this conclusion, with the former just receiving her doctorate. Sensitive arrays have been developed by the lab team, which can help in differentiating the different variants in wastewater. 

This also provides indications as to where the COVID-19 is still active, even when there is a decline in the number of rapid tests and PCR tests. Kushmaro arrived at the Ben-Gurion University about 21 years ago and got his advance degrees in biotechnology and molecular biology at Tel Aviv University. He had also trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and Hebrew University. He established the Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and also founded a lab at the School of Sustainability and Climate Change. The specialties of the lab include antimicrobial activities of different organisms, marine microbial ecology and wastewater microbiology. 

It also specializes in the treatment of wastewater biologically. Starting in December 2021 and till January 2022, his team had been monitoring the sewage from Beersheeba. That’s when they had noticed the disturbing interaction between the Delta and Omicron variants. A model was also developed for predicting that Omicron appears to be burning out, but Delta could pounce again any time soon. They said that the continued circulation of the coronavirus was leading to new mutations and new variants. They added that up until now, every time a new variant popped up, it had overpowered its predecessor. 

They said that even though the vaccination efforts in Israel had been quite significant and a large percentage of the people have gotten vaccinated, the Omicron variant appeared to have stuck around in the country. This latest variant has spread across the world swiftly and has resulted in record morbidity. Previously, the Delta had been the major variant in most countries, but the Omicron appeared to have different dynamics. If the scientists’ prediction comes true, the Delta variant may remerge once more, or it could end up generating a new threatening variant. 

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