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‘Deltacron might be a result of…’: WHO on infection with Delta and Omicron

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday said that ‘Deltacron’ that implies an individual being infected with both Delta as well as the Omicron variant of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is not “really a thing.” The phrase came to the news after a researcher in Cyprus namely Leondios Kostrikis reportedly discovered a strain of Covid-19 that combines both the variants. Furthermore, Bloomberg reported that as many as 25 cases of Deltacron have been detected in the country so far, even as details about the new strain remains unknown.

WHO technical lead of Covid-19 Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said that the Deltacron might be a result of “contamination” that occurred during the sequencing process.

She, however, clarified that it is possible for a person to be infected with different variants of SARS-CoV-2. The WHO technical lead also stated that there have been examples of coinfection in which individuals were infected with both influenza and Covid-19 “throughout this pandemic.”

“There was a recent systematic review that looked at the prevalence of this (coinfection with Covid-19 and influenza). They also looked at whether or not people had more severe disease,” she said, adding that the review discovered that coinfection didn’t increase the severity of the disease.

Dr Kerkhove pointed out that it needs to be looked at as time progresses how the coinfection discovery of the systematic review stands for Omicron and influenza as the latter starts to spread again.

“As people are coming together and as flu starts to spread again, we’re seeing increasing numbers of influenza around the world, and that can happen out of season,” she said.

To keep from getting infected with either Covid-19 or influenza, the WHO technical lead recommended minimising exposure to both as well as urged those who are eligible for a flu vaccine to get jabbed.

Also Read | T-cell responses offer protection against Omicron variant of Covid: Study

Executive director of WHO health emergencies programme Mike Ryan echoed Dr Kerkhove and said that having both infections – SARS-CoV-2 and influenza, at the same time shouldn’t result in a more severe case. However, he noted that what the coinfection does allow is “the opportunity for the virus to recombine and that can happen.”

Explaining what the ‘recombination’ exactly means, Ryan stated that the process involves “very rapid exchange” within the body if one single human cell is infected with both variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Omicron, which was first discovered in South Africa last year, has quickly circulated to become one of the most dominant strains of Covid-19. It has spurred up infection rates across the globe, including in India, and even triggered governments to bring back restrictions to contain it. Besides Omicron, IHU variant was discovered in France in December last year. However, the IHU variant remains mostly limited.

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