A new summary of recent COVID-19 studies was released on Wednesday, March 9. One of the findings it contained was that of a new strain of the COVID virus. This new strain has been dubbed “Deltacron,” as it combines the genes of the Delta and Omicron variants.
According to Reuters, this is possible due to the genetic merging of the human coronavirus occurring when two variants infect the same host cell. Philippe Colson of IHU Méditerranée Infection Foundation in Marseille, France, explains, “During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, two or more variants have co-circulated during same periods of time and in same geographical areas. This created opportunities for recombination between these two variants.” Colson did add that his team has designed a PCR test that can test positive samples for the presence of this variant.
The study further reports this hybrid has been identified in at least 17 patients in Europe and the United States. As there have been so few confirmed cases, it is too soon to know how infectious or severe the Deltacron strain is. Per USA Today, the hybrid is initially not proving to be more severe than current strains of COVID.
Helix, the San Mateo, California lab that works with the Centers for Disease Control to track COVID, sequenced 29,710 positive virus samples collected across the United States from November 22, 2021, through February 13, 2022. Researchers found only two samples with varying versions of Deltacron and twenty other samples with the Delta and Omicron strains. One sample was infected with Delta, Omicron, and Deltacron. These variations are due to the presence or absence of drugs, vaccines, or simply chance.
William Lee, the chief science officer at Helix, stated it is too soon to worry about Deltacron. Researchers have not officially adopted this new name, and it seems unlikely to spread as easily as other variants. “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 warrant its own Greek letter name,” Lee shared.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an American infectious disease epidemiologist and the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, stated at a press conference on Wednesday that “there are very low levels of this detection” so far in the places where Deltacron has been detected. She also confirmed that many studies of this newly detected variant are already underway.