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What is the Deltacron covid variant and where was it found?

A new covid-19 variant - a combination of the fast-spreading Omicron and Delta dubbed Deltacron - has been detected in Cyprus with 25 cases reported.

A health worker gets a swab sample from a resident to test for Covid-19 coronavirus in Tianjin, in northern China on January 9, 2022.

The Omicron covid-19 variant is sweeping the globe, leading to record case numbers being recorded in several countries including the USA, the UK, France and Germany, placing national health systems under pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the dangers of a rise in the number of hospitalisations due to the highly contagious Omicron strain, which is less serious than Delta but spreading at a much faster rate, becoming the dominant strain worldwide in a matter of weeks since it was first detected in South Africa in November.

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While Omicron does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorised as mild,” the head of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last Thursday. “Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalising people and it is killing people. In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick, that it is overwhelming health systems around the world.”

Other new variants have also been detected, such as IHU, which was discovered in France at around the same time as Omicron. IHU was classified as a “variant of interest” by the WHO, although it is not thought to be as much of a threat to global health as its predecessors having failed to spread beyond the first 12 cases detected in Marseille. The WHO said IHU was “on its radar,” but did not upgrade it to a “variant of concern,” which is the designation for covid strains that have higher binding capacity – the ability to attach to cells in the human body – and are fast-spreading.

Deltacron emerges in Cyprus

As such, one of the worst possible scenarios for new variants is an amalgamation of those factors to create a new variant possessing the properties of two potentially destabilizing factors. Flurona, a combination of influenza and coronavirus, was recently detected in Israel and now the first cases of a variant dubbed Deltacron – a combination of the more lethal Delta variant and the wildfire-like Omicron strain – have been reported in Cyprus. According to Leondios Kostrikis, a biology professor at the University of Cyprus, “there have co-infections of Omicron and Delta,” and in the case of the variant detected in Cyprus, “it is a combination of both.” Speaking to local television broadcaster Signa TV, Kostrikis confirmed that the variant displays “the genetic signature of Omicron and the genomes of Delta.”

According to date from the Cypriot government, there have been 25 cases of Deltacron detected. However, Kostrikis, who also heads up the University of Cyprus’ Biotechnology and Virology Laboratory, noted that the new variant is “more frequent in hospitalised patients than in vaccinated patients.”

Omicron cases worldwide passed the 300-million-mark last Friday with the US recording over one million cases in a single day last week. On 6 January, 2.3 million cases were recorded globally in a 24-hour period.