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Hybrid coronaviruses from merged variants are spreading between people

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Illustration of recombination between coronaviruses

RUSSELL KIGHTLEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Recombinant viruses formed by mash-ups of two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are now spreading from person to person, potentially increasing the risk of dangerous new variants arising.

New Scientist reported on the first detection of this kind of recombination last month, but at that point it was unknown whether the resulting hybrid was circulating in the wild. Two new analyses end any doubt. “Recombinants are circulating,” says Dave VanInsberghe at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Recombination is a potent source of evolutionary change in coronaviruses. The worry is that it …

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