The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing global pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). As of 12th March 2022, more than 456 million people have been infected with 6.1 million people died from COVID-19 worldwide.
Over the past two years of the pandemic, more than a dozen different variants have been identified. Many are insignificant and have only spread locally. The major variants like the Delta and Omicron variant has caused significant disruptions to the global effort against COVID-19. Since February 2022, health officials in the United Kingdom officially began monitoring a hybrid strain of the Delta and Omicron coronavirus known as the Deltacron.
Where has it spread so far?
Luckily for our Asian audiences, no Deltacron strain has been reported by any local authorities. The most recent outbreaks in Singapore, Hong Kong and Changchun in China have all been dominated by the Omicron variant. Specifically, the BA.2 subvariants have been on the rise over the past month and have dominated much of the new cases in Europe and Asia. However, with more and more countries relaxing their border restrictions, it is very likely Deltacron will appear in Asia soon.
On 9th of March, the WHO said that Deltacron has been detected in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the US.
What do we know about Deltacron?
Deltacron variant is named so because it contains genetic traits from both the Delta and Omicron variants. It most likely was first observed in a patient infected with both variants at the same time. During the viral replication process, it is possible that parts of the two variants’ DNA strands were mixed into one DNA chain and produced a new virus with genetic material from both.
Among the two variants, the Delta variant can cause more severe symptoms and have a higher death rate, the Omicron variant tends to cause mild symptoms but are much more contagious. And what’s getting people worried is that the new combination would be both deadly and fast spreading.
Is it more contagious?
Interestingly, it does not seem to be more contagious than any of the two previous variants. Even though it is believed to exist since January when it was first identified, less than 50 cases have been reported internationally as of March 10. No detailed epidemiology data has been published as of yet.
Should we be worried about Deltacron?
There has not been any indication that patients infected with Deltacron variant would show more severe symptoms than those infected with Omicron variant.
More importantly, the spike proteins of Deltacron, which are the determining factor in our body’s immune response towards the virus, comes almost entirely from Omicron. Hence, for people who have contracted the more widespread Omicron, or have been vaccinated, mounting an appropriate immune response to fend off Deltacron should not be an issue.
Current treatment protocols for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms are also still applicable to these patients.
Possessing Omicron’s distinctive spike protein might also be reassuring as it has been suspected to not be able to invade cells in the lower respiratory tract, like the lungs, accounting for its lower disease severity.
In summary, the Deltacron variant remains enigmatic. With just a few cases available to be studied, it is not a cause for concern till more evidence can be gathered.