SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Scientists are learning more about a hybrid variant of COVID-19 that has been detected called “deltacron.”
Deltacron was first reported early this year, when it was thought to be a co-infection of the omicron and delta coronavirus variants (meaning people were possibly infected with two variants at once). Now, researchers believe it’s a single, hybrid variant that combines genes from both delta and omicron.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization decided to start tracking deltacron, but is not yet calling it a variant of concern.
“It’s got features of omicron and features of delta,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California. He added the name of the hybrid variant could change in the future.
“It sounds pretty ominous if you take the worst aspects of delta, which was a more serious illness, and you combine it with the worst aspects of omicron, which is very transmissible, then you have something that sounds pretty scary,” Swartzberg said. “There is absolutely no evidence that this new recombinant virus has those qualities at all.”
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, said both those variants were likely involved in creating this new one.
“At some point, there [are] two circulating variants, so one person can actually catch two variants at one time and the two variants can actually invade the same cell, and then they can have children,” he explained. In this case, that virus “child” would be deltacron.
Deltacron has been detected in the United States, but at this point, it is not a major concern. So far, only a handful of cases have been confirmed. Plus, people who have had COVID-19 and/or been vaccinated may have immune systems already primed to fight off this new variant.
“So far, it seems like the outside of deltacron is looking almost exactly like omicron,” Chin-Hong said.
Both doctors were not surprised or alarmed to see the coronavirus mutating again.
“It’s a normal part of viruses, it happens all the time. But we never really know how it plays out in the field of life until it gets out into the community,” Chin-Hong said.
The infectious disease specialists did emphasize that the best way to protect yourself from this variant, or any future variants, is to get fully up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations.