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CORONAVIRUS

Is the Deltacron variant more contagious than Omicron?

The WHO has confirmed the first cases of a recombinant variant of coronavirus which includes mutuations common in the Omicron and Delta strains of covid-19.

Update:
The WHO has confirmed the first cases of a recombinant variant of coronavirus which includes mutuations common in the Omicron and Delta strains of covid-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the discovery of a strain of coronavirus known as ‘Deltacron’, which contains a genetic combination of both the Delta and Omicron variants.

Independently both the Delta and Omicron variants have caused concern due to their greater contagiousness, the latter having fuelled the rapid rise in case numbers over the holiday period.

The variant was first identified by Leondios Kostrikis, a Cypriot virologist, who had found 25 cases of the new strain in January. Initially some health experts called the findings into question but greater investigation from the WHO has led to the organisation confirming the "first solid evidence for a Delta-Omicron recombinant virus.”

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Is Deltacron more contagious?

Over the winter months Omicron proved more contagious than previous variants but studies suggest that Omicron typically causes less severe infections than Delta. However it has still caused fatalities and pushed healthcare systems to the breaking point. In certain Omicron hot spots hospitals received more covid-19 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? Experts agree that it’s too early to tell. The variant has not recorded enough confirmed cases over the past few months for any proper study to be performed so there is no data yet on the severity of infections. Kostrikis, head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology at the University of Cyprus, was unsure whether the Deltacron could ever become as prominent as the Omicron variant.

He said: “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

Deltacron is thought to be a recombinant variant, meaning that it is comprised of a combination of different mutations common in other variants. This is a fairly common concept in the field of virology and not one that should prompt undue panic.

Recombinant is not restricted to different varients of the same virus either. There have been many cases of ‘flurona’ during the pandemic, occuring when an individual is infected with both covid-19 and influenza at the same time.Similar occurrences have been documented since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.

Fortunately in most cases, when vaccinated, there is no more to fear than contracting covid-19 or the flu one at a time. Both can cause severe illness, but for those who are vaccinated it would generally mean feeling crummy for a few days.

With two variants in high circulation, as was 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 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.”

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