As they say, some conditions were meant to be. With the Delta and Omicron variants of the Covid-19 coronavirus circulating so far for so long, the two versions of the virus did not need Tinder to find each other. And voilà, here’s what the unholy association seems to have produced: something that has now been dubbed the “Deltacron” variant.
The Deltacron name first appeared in early January 2022. As Lisa Kim reported Forbes back thenLeondios Kostrikis, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Cyprus, and his team indicated that they had discovered a new version of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that combined the characteristics of Delta and Omicron. the variants. They had discovered this version in samples taken from 25 patients with Covid-19 in Cyprus, of which 11 were hospitalized at the time. The research team named this new version the “Deltacron” variant, as a combination of the words “Delta” and “Omicron”, perhaps because the “Delta” variant had appeared earlier than the “Omicron” variant, and “Omilta” may also sound very as a militarized version of an omelet or “OMG”.
Fast forward a few months and there is now “solid evidence of a Delta-Omicron recombinant virus.” It is what said GISAID, based on results shared by a team from the Institut Pasteur in France. GISAID stands for Global Initiative on Sharing avian influenza data. Established in 2008, GISAID is a worldwide collaboration platform that enables researchers around the world to openly share genomic data originally for influenza virus, but now also for Covid-19 coronavirus.
The word “recombinant” is related to the word “recombination” and refers to a recombination of genetic material. When two different versions of SARS-CoV-2 infect the same cell and then play “hide the tip”, so to speak, and reproduce, they can essentially swap genetic material. This swap left, swap right situation can result in the viral “offspring” having a new combination of their “parents'” two sets of genetic material. This new “Deltacron” recombinant includes structures from both the Delta GK / AY.4 and Omicron GRA / BA.1 line.
Som Jeremy Kamil, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Shreveporttweeted on March 8, this new recombinant has been circulating since early January 2022 and discovered in several regions of France by the Institut Pasteur team:
France may have a reputation for being a romantic destination. But it has not been the only country to have seen this virus “love child” of the Delta and Omicron variants. Similar “recombined” versions of the virus have also appeared in Denmark, which was the first country in the EU to lift Covid-19 restrictions nationwide in early February, and the Netherlands:
Such recombinants may result when your answer to the question, “are you infected with the Delta of the Omicron variant,” happens to be “yes.” With both versions of the virus in your body and in your cells at the same time, there can be a lot of swapping left and right. There have probably already been quite a few people infected with both the Delta and Omicron variants simultaneously, as both variants have spread in a relatively uncontrolled manner across Europe and the United States. Therefore, the emergence of such a recombinant should not come as a surprise when Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, who is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) technical director of the COVID-19 response, tweeted:
When a new version of SARS-CoV-2 appears, the big question is whether it is more transferable (ie spreads more easily) than previous versions. And whether it is more likely to cause more severe Covid-19. OK, the two biggest questions are whether it is more transmissible and more likely to cause more severe Covid-19. And whether it is better able to avoid existing immune protection against vaccination or previous natural infection. Yes, those are the three big questions along with whether or not it responds as well to treatment with antibodies or antiviral agents. Okay, maybe there are four big questions. Either way, so far there have been too few reported cases of Deltacron variant infections to answer any of these questions. It would take many more cases to determine statistically significant trends.
Therefore, although “Deltacron” may sound like a new Transformers character, its appearance should not cause panic. Of course, the WHO will rarely say, “OK, folks, it’s time to panic now. We will issue guidelines on how to specifically panic and strike with your arms up.” But the rarity of the Deltacron variant cases to date is another reason why it does not yet give rise to further concern. Like reality TV stars, new varieties will keep coming and going. Some can get stuck and cause trouble and even become the head of a country, while many others can quickly disappear and be replaced. For now, this “Deltacron” variant has not risen to the level of being either a “variant of interest” or a “variant of concern.” However, it can be carefully watched and followed.
The emergence of the “Deltacron” variant is another reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over until official public health organizations declare it over. And not politicians, TV personalities or some guy on Facebook. A number of people in the United States appear to be behaving as if the pandemic emergency is somehow already over, even though the United States still has an average of 35,036 recently reported Covid-19 cases, 31,323 Covid-19-related hospitalizations and 1,272 Covid-19 cases. 19-related deaths per day over the last 14 days, according to New York Times.
All of this should make you wonder if the recent repeal of Covid-19 precautions such as face mask requirements will be another example of premature relaxation. And as I have said before Forbes, things that are too early can leave people surprised and disappointed and a potentially messy situation. Sure, this “Deltacron” variant may or may not turn out to be a nothing burger. Nevertheless, as long as the virus remains so widespread, so many people remain unvaccinated, and SARS-CoV-2 continues to strike out as often, chances are that new varieties of interest and concern will emerge at some point.