The World Health Organization this week confirmed the emergence of a new type of COVID-19 dubbed “deltacron” – a hybrid strain that combines the delta and omicron variants.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19, said cases had been reported in Denmark, France and the Netherlands, but noted that detection levels are “extremely low”.
According to Reuters, at least 17 patients have been identified.
Because many cases haven’t been confirmed, it’s too soon to know how deltachron infection is transmitted or whether it will cause severe disease, according to Philip Coulson, the researcher who published a report Regarding three cases in France, he told Reuters.
The patients described in the aforementioned report had a strain combining a spike protein of an omicron type and a delta-variable ‘body’.
In a tweet last week, Van Kerkhove clarified that the potential for recombinant delta and omicron viruses should be expected due to the “intensive circulation” of both species.
The WHO health official said there is “very good surveillance in many countries at the moment”, and “given the huge number of changes and mutations within the omicron, it has been much easier for researchers, scientists, public health professionals, and people who study the genome, to be able to detect these combinations.”
Experts who spoke to USA Today say it’s too early to worry about deltachron.
“It’s just a variable if it produces a large number of cases,” William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told the newspaper. “So no, if it doesn’t cause a lot of cases, you don’t have to worry.”
No change in severity has been reported, according to the World Health Organization, and more studies are underway to learn more about the variant.