A new but rare variant of COVID-19 is popping up in several countries around the world. On March 9, the World Health Organization (WHO) addressed the strain, dubbed "deltacron." Last week, GISAID, a genomic data-collecting organization for scientists, said that the first "solid evidence" of deltacron came from France's Institut Pasteur. Here's everything we know about the new variant.
What Is the Deltacron Variant?
In a media briefing, infectious-disease epidemiologist and WHO COVID technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, referred to the new variant as a "recombinant," meaning it was made from a combination of genes found in the highly transmissible delta and omicron COVID variants. It's to be expected, she said, because of the "intense amount of circulation that we saw with both omicron and delta" — with some countries experiencing both variants at the same time.
A CDC spokesperson told POPSUGAR via email that all coronaviruses have the potential to undergo the "natural process" of recombination when two different viruses infect someone simultaneously. This "may or may not affect the characteristics of the virus — including its ability to spread, cause severe disease or make treatments or vaccines less effective."
Fortunately, Dr. Van Kerkhove said that there is "very good surveillance in many countries right now, and given the sheer number of changes and mutations within omicron, it was much easier for researchers, scientists, public health professionals, people who are studying the genome, to be able to detect these recombinants." She noted that WHO has not seen any change in case severity due to deltacron and that there are many ongoing studies. WHO will continue to give updates when the organization learns more.
Where Has the Deltacron Variant Been Found?
According to Reuters, deltacron has been detected in at least 17 patients in the US and Europe. Per "The Guardian," however, the UK Health Security Agency detected about 30 cases in the UK alone. During the WHO briefing, Dr. Van Kerkhove said that deltacron has been detected in France, the Netherlands, and Denmark, but that there are "very low levels of this detection."
Ultimately, the CDC maintains that "Delta-Omicron recombinants are exceedingly rare in the United States," stating: "Between December 2021 and current, nine SARS-CoV-2 viruses have been identified as Delta-Omicron recombinants out of more than 400,000 analyzed through CDC's national genomic surveillance system. These recombinant viruses were collected from five states and are different than recombinants reported by other countries."
Is the Deltacron Variant Dangerous?
Deltacron is not under the CDC or WHO's list of variants of concern. As of now, omicron is still the most dominant COVID strain in the US, according to data reported to the CDC. "The New York Times" reports that scientists will most likely formally dub deltacron "XD."
The CDC tells POPSUGAR that it will continue to monitor variants circulating in the US and will update the public "if an emerging variant warrants classification as a Variant of Concern."
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.