Deltacron has now officially been declared a COVID-19 strain.
Concerns about a mutation combining features of both the Delta and Omicron variants first arose earlier this year, following an investigation that took place in a Cyprus lab. Virologists in Paris have now confirmed its existence.
It's also been confirmed, by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that evidence of the strain has been found in Denmark and the Netherlands. France and the US have also reported cases.
Here in the UK there is so far one confirmed case from a person who had contracted both variants.
It is likely the variant began circulating in January.
How does Deltacron happen?
“These recombinants arise when more than one variant infects and replicates in the same person, in the same cells,” Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick told the Guardian.
“Deltacron is a product of both the Delta and Omicron variants circulating in the same population.”
The technical lead of the WHO, Maria van Kerkhove, said the mutation was "to be expected, especially with intense circulation of Omicron and Delta", adding that her team was "tracking and discussing" the new variant.
Should we be worried?
The Delta strain had more serious effects, while Omicron spread more rapidly. The combination of their properties could be considered a concern.
However, there is substantial immunity from the previous circulation of the two variants. Also, 73% of UK citizens are fully vaccinated and there has been no evidence that the hybrid variant poses a threat to its effectiveness.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swamina shared his thoughts on Twitter, expressing that the new variant is not out of the ordinary.
She tweeted, “We have known that recombinant events can occur, in humans or animals, with multiple circulating variants of #SarsCoV2."
She added that more information is needed to comment fully on the situation: "Need to wait for experiments to determine the properties of this virus. Importance of sequencing, analytics and rapid data sharing as we deal with this pandemic.”
The UK Health Security Agency have noted that the variant is not currently showing a growth rate that requires us to be particularly concerned or to panic.
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