Dismissed ‘Deltacron’ variant could be real
Health authorities in the UK have officially begun monitoring the so-called ‘Deltacron’ variant of the Covid-19 coronavirus that is thought to be a hybrid of the Omicron and Delta strains. The move comes after experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere had dismissed the variant as a lab error last month.
The UK Health Security agency (UKHSA) included the mutant strain – which emerges when different variants merge inside a host – in its latest weekly surveillance report on “variants of public health interest” this week. It lists Deltacron among other “signals currently under monitoring and investigation,” which is a designation below ‘variant of concern’ and ‘variant under investigation’.
The agency did not specify the exact number of Deltacron cases it has identified, but unnamed UKHSA sources told the Daily Mail that officials were “not concerned” by the variant since the number of infections are “low.” The paper also reported that the agency does not yet know how infectious or severe Deltacron is or whether it will affect vaccine effectiveness.
“We monitor everything as a matter of course, but we are not particularly anxious about this variant. It is on that list just because we are currently looking at it,” a UKHSA official told the Daily Mail. The anonymous source added that it was a “very safe bet” the strain would not be a problem in the country.
It remains unclear whether the cases observed originated in the UK or arrived from overseas, but the UKHSA identified five ‘variants of concern’ in the country, including the Delta and Omicron strains. Scientists have observed at least three such hybrid variants – known as ‘recombinants’ – so far, but none caused major outbreaks, the Daily Mail reported.
According to Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, the variant “in theory shouldn’t pose too much of a threat” since the UK has “high levels of immunity” against Delta and Omicron strains. Although Hunter warned the Daily Mail that “nobody can predict everything with certainty,” he said the UKHSA report “doesn’t fill me with dread.”
Initial reports about Deltacron surfaced last month after a lab in Cyprus announced that it had identified the recombinant. However, its findings were dismissed by scientists, including senior experts at the WHO, who rejected claims about a “super variant” and said it was “likely contamination during sequencing.”