There was brief excitement about what Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, and his team discovered in their lab earlier this year: a strain of coronavirus made up of delta and omicron variants. So a cross that could combine two unfavorable properties: quickly contagious and dangerous.
That was the expectation, which was then quickly replaced by a clear all. The samples in the Cypriot laboratory would have been contaminated, you could read “error” and “laboratory errors”.
Virologists such as Christian Drosten had warned that in the future a virus could emerge that, on the one hand, “carries the spike protein of the omicron virus to continue enjoying this immunological advantage, but has the rest of the genome of the delta virus.” That’s exactly what happened.
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The Pasteur Institute in Paris has submitted a genome sequence made up of a delta virus and an omicron to the international Covid GISAID database. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already confirmed the new variant.
WHO expert Maria van Kerkhove, responsible for corona, was not particularly surprised: “We know about this recombinant. It is a combination of Delta AY.4 and Omikron BA.1.” Such a recombinant was to be expected when two corona variants like Delta and Omikron circulate so strongly.
How did Deltakron come about?
it also looks like Jeffrey Barrett, who led the Covid-19 Genome Initiative at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Recombinant variants are not uncommon, the Brit told The Guardian. “Delta Crown” It would not be the first or the last to happen with Covid. “This happens every time we’re transitioning from one dominant variant to another, and it’s usually a scientific curiosity, but not much more than that.” Recombinant variants arise when people become infected with two variants of coronavirus at the same time. That could have happened around the turn of the year, when Omikron replaced the previously more dominant Delta variant.
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According to the WHO, infections with “Deltakron” are still at a very low level in Europe and consequently the data situation is limited.
RKI confirms a case in Germany
According to the GISAID data platform, the variant appears to have been in circulation since the beginning of the year. So far, isolated cases have been reported in France, the Netherlands, and Denmark; in Great Britain, 32 cases were recorded in early February in which the hybrid form was found. The Robert Koch Institute can confirm an infection with a recombinant “Deltakron” in Germany compared to the “Tagesspiegel”. “All SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences transmitted to the RKI are continuously checked for new mutations and new combinations of mutations. If a recombination event is suspected, the genome sequence is subjected to intensive individual analysis. , which includes more data from the sample”, explains a spokeswoman.
How dangerous is the variant?
The variant hardly plays a role in the current infection process. Experts such as Luka Cicin-Sain, head of the “Viral Immunology” department at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, therefore see no reason to panic. Although it is common for recombinant variants to develop, Deltakron is currently only occasionally observed, which speaks against a selective advantage for this variant, he tells the “Tagesspiegel”. He doesn’t think the variant is as dangerous as Delta and as contagious as Omicron. “Since the patients infected with Deltakron were not particularly severe cases, the fact that the variant could be as dangerous as Delta and as contagious as Omicron is more likely to speak against it.”
In general, however, the general principle applies: Corona can and will mutate in the future, even without a hybrid variant: “it remains unpredictable,” says Cicin-Sain. The developments of the virus will have to be monitored more thoroughly.
But the vaccine still gives him hope: people who receive boosters have a high antibody titer, which protects them from severe courses of covid, death and prolonged covid.