CORONAVIRUS US

Is the Deltacron variant more contagious than Omicron?

Researchers in Cyprus claimed over the weekend to have found a new covid-19 strain they dubbed Deltacron, a combination of the two most contagious strains.

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Is the Deltacron variant more contagious than Omicron?
MARCO BELLO REUTERS

Over the weekend a new variant was supposedly discovered in Cyprus which has been dubbed Deltacron. The new strain has a genetic combination of both the Delta and Omicron variants, both of which have caused global concern for their rapid spread.

So far, just 25 cases have been identified of this new strain and some health experts have called into question the findings suggesting there may have been a lab error. The lead Cypriot researcher stands behind his team’s work and the potential for coronavirus variants to combine is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Is Deltacron more contagious?

The world is currently in the throws of a new surge of covid-19 infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. It has replaced the Delta variant, which pushed a summer surge, as the dominant strain in several countries.

Both have proven more contagious than prior variants but from data collected so far Omicron is causing less severe infections than Delta. However, that is of little comfort though, as it has caused fatalities and being even more transmissible than Delta is pushing healthcare systems to the breaking point. In Omicron hot spots hospitals are treating more patients than at any time during the pandemic forcing the suspension of non-emergency procedures.

Thus the question, just how contagious is this new potential strain? Frankly, it’s too early to tell. Cyprus has one of the highest per capita infection rates in Europe with over 4,400 average cases per day. Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology at the University of Cyprus along with his research team say they discovered 25 cases of Deltacron.

Kostrikis said in his personal view this new strain will most likely be outcompeted by the Omicron variant adding “we will see in the future if [Deltacron] is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail.”

Co-infection with multiple variants and viruses is possible

It is currently too early to know whether Deltacron is a real variant or another scary sounding word to come out of the covid-19 pandemic spreading around the globe faster than the virus. One recent such buzzword “Flurona,” which cause the internet to light up, is when an individual is infected with both covid-19 and influenza at the same time. Several new cases of this happening have been reported around the world but this occurrence has been documented since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.

With case numbers increasing of people infected with one or the other virus in the general public, the opportunity increases for a person to get a double whammy. Fortunately, in most cases, when vaccinated, there is no more to fear than contracting covid-19 or the flu one at a time depending on an individual’s health. Both can cause severe illness, but for those who are vaccinated it would generally mean feeling crummy for a few days.

Just as it is possible to contract two different viruses at the same time, it is also possible to contract two different covid-19 variants simultaneously. The first case believed to be documented occurred in Belgium last year, but other cases have been reported.

With two variants in high circulation as is the case with Delta and Omicron there exists an increased possibility of variants recombining to create a new strain. “It’s true of viruses in general and particularly of coronaviruses,” Christian Bréchot, head of the Global Virus Network and a former director of the Institut Pasteur told FRANCE 24. “And it wouldn’t be the first time this kind of mutation occurs.”

Health experts advise that the best way to mitigate the problem of dual infections is through vaccination. “So long as variants continue to thrive around the world, we will be at the mercy of this type of development,” Christine Rouzioux, virologist and professor emeritus at Paris-Descartes University said. “This situation is further evidence of the fact that a strategy based on giving rich countries preferential access to vaccines is doomed to fail.”