New COVID variant ‘Deltacron’ detected; how quickly is it spreading and should we be concerned?

The Delta variant was more severe

With confirmed instances in France and the United States, “Deltacron” has been formally designated as a COVID-19 variant.

Concerns were raised earlier this year when investigations by a lab in Cyprus found mutations from both Omicron and Delta. The genome of a genuine “Deltacron” variation has now been sequenced by virologists from L’Institut Pasteur in Paris. Several regions of France have confirmed cases, and it appears to have been circulating since early January.

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed in a press conference on March 9 that the strain had also been discovered in the Netherlands and Denmark. In the United States, there have been two confirmed cases, with a number of more infections suspected. Last month, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the discovery of one instance of Delta x Omicron in a person who had contracted both types.

What is ‘Deltacron’?

The “backbone” of the variant is drawn from Delta, while the spike – the component of the virus that attaches itself to human cells – is derived from Omicron, according to scientists. When someone gets infected with two types at the same time, their cells reproduce together, resulting in combined viruses. This mutation was “to be expected, especially with a high circulation of Omicron and Delta,” according to Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID technical lead. Her team was “monitoring and debating” the variant, she said.

One instance of Delta x Omicron was discovered in the UK, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and it developed in a person who had contracted both strains. More instances are expected to be confirmed soon, according to reports.

Should we be worried?

The Delta form had more severe consequences for those who contracted it, whereas Omicron was more contagious. This could raise concerns about a strain that combines the two. However, scientists point out that the human population has developed significant tolerance to both forms, and there is no reason to believe that this will pose a threat to vaccines.

“The fact that there isn’t 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,” Dr William Lee, chief science officer at Helix, a California-based lab that sequences COVID-19 samples for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told USA Today.

“There are very low amounts of this detection” in regions where “Deltacron” has been identified, Dr Van Kerkhove stated. She also stated that there had been no “change in severity” and that research would continue to monitor the effects.

When asked about the Deltacron variant, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid replied there were “no worries at all.” “Of course, there are some variances that we’d keep an eye on,” he said. “The most recent source of anxiety has been Omicron, but thanks to the British people’s response, we have effectively navigated our way through it as a country. There are additional so-called subvariants of Omicron, although none of them is of importance at this critical time. We’ll keep an eye on it, but we have no concerns.”