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DELTACRON ALERT

Context

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on 09-03-2022 that a novel COVID-19 type nicknamed "Deltacron," which combines the Delta and Omicron forms has been discovered spreading in regions of Europe. 

Key Points

  • According to officials, the new variant has been discovered in France, the Netherlands, and Denmark. 
  • In a recent study published in MedRxiv and read by USA Today, examples of the putative new variation have also been detected in the United States.
  • US researchers at the Helix lab in San Mateo, California, which collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in tracking COVID-19, sequenced and examined 29,719 positive coronavirus samples gathered between November 22 and February 13.

The Study

  • Two infections involving various variations of Deltacron, i.e. 
  • A combination of the genetic material found in Delta and 
  • Omicron variants, were discovered in a study published on the research site MedRxiv.

"Throughout the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, two or more variations co-circulated during the same periods of time and in the same geographical areas," said Philippe Colson of IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille, France, the study's primary author. Recombination between these two types became possible as a result of this."

  • According to Reuters, "His team documented three patients in France who were infected with a type of SARS-CoV-2 that combines the spike protein from an Omicron variety with the "body" of a Delta variant."

Viral Recombination

  • When at least two viral genomes infect the same host cell and exchange genetic material during replication, the result is a virus offspring that has genes from both parent strains. Because of the way coronaviruses' RNA genomes are duplicated, it's thought to be prevalent.

Delta + Omicron: How concerned should we be?

  • Experts and epidemiologists previously argued that cases of viral recombination were extremely rare because there was no clinical data to support their claims. However, we are driven to believe otherwise in light of the WHO's pronouncement and recent discoveries.
  • On the other hand, experts say it's too early to be concerned about the Deltacron.
  • Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization took to twitter to explain why this was expected, particularly given the extensive circulation of omicron and delta.

According to the infectious disease epidemiologist, the numbers have been quite low in regions where Deltacron has been discovered.  

The science behind new variations on the rise

  • Viruses are designed to evolve. The SARs-COV-2 virus changes over time, therefore new variations will inevitably appear.
  • COVID mutations or 'variants' of the original virus are mutations that originate from an old or original strain.
  • As a result, unlike the original strain, the new variants may have distinct capacities in infecting people and may have a different genome sequencing that allows it to avoid antibodies from natural infections or immunizations.
  • Delta was more severe, contagious, and dangerous than the prior variety. 
  • Then there was the Omicron, which, despite being milder, caused broad transmission and was discovered to re-infect some people who had previously been infected with COVID-19.

"Unfortunately, we do anticipate to see recombinants since this is what viruses do, they evolve over time," explains WHO epidemiologist Van Kerkhove. "There's a lot of circulation going on right now. This virus is infecting animals, with the potential to infect people again. The pandemic, once again, is far from done "she continues.

Precaution

  • Following COVID-appropriate precautions is still the best method to stop the virus from spreading. 
  • This also reduces its ability to evolve and mutate in the future. 
  • Wearing masks, keeping a safe social distance, and practising proper hand hygiene are all important in the fight against fatal illness. 
  • Prioritize vaccination above all else. 
  • COVID-19 vaccines are believed to reduce the severity of infection significantly, even though they do not prevent infection.

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