'Deltacron' identified as new COVID variant

Written by: Dr. Ali Khatau

Posted at: 2022-03-12 10:26:39

"Deltacron" has been officially identified as a COVID-19 variant, with confirmed cases in France and the US. Combining mutations from both Omicron and Delta, concerns were raised earlier this year following investigations by a lab in Cyprus. Now, virologists from Paris have sequenced the genome of a genuine "Deltacron" variant. Cases have been confirmed in several regions of France and it appears to have been circulating since early January. In a briefing on 9 March 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the strain had also been found in the Netherlands and Denmark. There are two confirmed cases in the US with a number of other suspected infections. And last month, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed one case of Delta x Omicron had been discovered in a person who had contracted both variants. What is 'Deltacron'? Scientists says the variant's "backbone" is derived from Delta while its spike - the part of the virus that attaches itself to human cells - is from Omicron. Combined viruses come about when someone is infected with two variants at the same time, and their cells then replicate together. Maria van Kerkhove, the COVID technical lead for the WHO, said this mutation was "to be expected, especially with intense circulation of Omicron & Delta". She added that her team was "tracking and discussing" the variant. Reports suggest it is only a matter of time before more cases are confirmed. Should we be worried? The Delta variant had more severe effects on those who caught it, while Omicron was more infectious. This may cause concern over a strain combined from both. However, scientists stress there is now substantial immunity in the human population against both variants and there is no reason to think this will pose a danger to vaccines. Dr. William Lee, chief science officer at Helix says: "The fact that there is not that much of it, that even the two cases we saw were different, suggests that it's probably not going to elevate to a variant of concern level." And Dr Van Kerkhove added in the places where "Deltacron" has been found, "there are very low levels of this detection". She also confirmed they had not seen "any change in severity", and that studies will continue to track its effects. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were "no concerns at all" when asked about the Deltacron variant. "There are variants that we would obviously keep under review," he said.

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