Covid variants merge: Country confirms 'Deltacron' case

Health officials in the UK are monitoring a new Covid strain named Deltacron — a combination of the Omicron and Delta Covid variants — after initially dismissing it last month.

The new hybrid variant has been identified in a British patient and was named by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in its weekly "variants in monitoring" list.

A report released on Friday said scientists believe it evolved in a patient who caught both the Omicron and Delta variants at the same time.

It's unclear if it was contracted in the UK or was brought in from another country, The Telegraph reports.

It's also unknown how transmissible or severe it is.

People walking in a busy street in winter wearing face masks.
The hybrid variant was dismissed in Janaury but is now being monitored in the UK. Source: AP

Deltacron initially dismissed

News of Deltacron first emerged after Cyprian virologist Leondios Kostrikis announced in early January that his research group at the University of Cyprus had identified several SARS-CoV-2 genomes featuring both the Delta and Omicron variants.

"There are currently omicron and delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two," Professor Kostrikis said in an interview with local TV station Sigma TV at the time.

He said the variant was named Deltacron due to the omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes.

However, some medical experts said the emergence could be a lab error.

"Deltacron is not real and is likely due to sequencing artefact (lab contamination of Omicron sequence fragments in a Delta specimen)," Tweeted Dr Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases researcher with the World Health Organisation.

"Let’s not merge names of infectious diseases and leave it to celebrity couples."

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the emergence of Deltacron comes as cases of both Omicron and Delta drop in the UK.

In an interview with the MailOnline, Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said he's not worried about Deltacron.

"It doesn't fill me with dread. The reason is because, at present, both Delta and most versions of Omicron... are falling quickly and Delta is almost extinct in [the UK]," he said.

"[Deltacron] will have shared antigens from both Delta and Omicron and we already have high levels of immunity to those."

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