Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2001

There may be a new COVID variant, Deltacron. Here's what we know about it.

Apotential new COVID-19 variant, a combination of the delta and omicron variants – you can call it "deltacron" – has been identified.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the new COVID-19 combination has been detected in France, the Netherlands and Denmark. It's also been found in the U.S., according to a new report soon to be published on research site MedRxiv, and viewed by USA TODAY.
The San Mateo, California-headquartered lab Helix, which works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track COVID-19, sequenced 29,719 positive COVID-19 samples collected Nov. 22 to Feb. 13 from across the U.S., according to the research team, which included the University of Washington Medical Center and testing company Thermo Fisher Scientific.
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Researchers found two infections involving different versions of deltacron, resulting from the combination of delta and omicron genetic material. Twenty other infections had both the delta and omicron variants, with one case having delta, omicron and Deltacron.
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Should we worry about deltacron?

Experts say it's too soon to worry about deltacron. Compared with earlier variants, such as delta and omicron, this new variation – researchers have not adopted the "deltacron" name officially – appears unlikely to spread as easily, said William Lee, the chief science officer at Helix.

"The fact that there is not that much of it, that even the two cases we saw were different, suggests that it's probably not going to elevate to a variant of concern level" and warrant its own Greek letter name, Lee told USA TODAY.
So far, in the places where deltacron has been detected, "there are very low levels of this detection," said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an American infectious disease epidemiologist and the WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, during a Wednesday press conference.
For now, WHO has not seen "any change in the epidemiology," Van Kerkhove said. And regarding deltacron, "we haven't seen any change in severity. But there are many studies that are underway."
William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, concurs.
"It's only a variant if it produces a large number of cases," he said. "So no, if it's not causing lots of cases, people don’t need to be concerned."
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How do we get COVID-19 variants?

Viruses such as the SARS-CoV-2 strain that causes COVID-19 can change and mutate. For instance, the mutations that caused the delta variant resulted in a variant that made people contagious sooner. The omicron variant itself was more contagious and was found to reinfect some who had previously had COVID-19.
"Unfortunately, we do expect to see recombinants because this is what viruses do, they change over time," Van Kerkhove said. "We're seeing a very intense level of circulation. We are seeing this virus infect animals, with the possibility of infecting humans again. So again, the pandemic is far from over."

Why is deltacron important?

Usually, mutations happen steadily until one becomes strong enough to become a new variant. In this case, there were many different mutations occurring, perhaps as a function of the continued existence of delta amid the omicron wave.
"For a few weeks, co-infection cases probably happened more often than we know of, because they can be difficult to detect," Lee said.
While people may not need to worry about this latest variant, researchers can learn from deltacron's development.
"It's an interesting phenomenon, and it helps us understand more about how the virus evolves and how the pandemic continues to endure," Lee said.
The continuing variants "validate the need for ongoing national surveillance to identify potential variants of concern as part of an early warning system that monitors for new viral trends including COVID-19, flu and other viruses, Lee said.
Testing and constant study of the virus is "critical," Van Kerkhove said.
"It's really critical that we continue with sequencing, that we have good geographic representation of sequencing around the world, and that the systems that have been put in place for surveillance for testing for sequencing, right now be reinforced, that they're not taken apart, because we have to move on to the next challenge," she said.



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Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2001

Scientists Discovered an Antibody That Can Take Out All COVID-19 Variant

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COVID-19 vaccines have been effective at keeping people from getting severely ill and dying from the virus, but they’ve required different boosters to try to keep on top of all of the coronavirus variants that have popped up. Now, researchers have discovered an antibody that neutralizes all known COVID-19 variants.

Researchers hope to create a new vaccine and treatments with a newly-discovered antibody that neutralizes all COVID variants. Here’s what you need to know.
Researchers hope to create a new vaccine and treatments with a newly-discovered antibody that neutralizes all COVID variants. Here’s what you need to know.© MR.Cole_Photographer - Getty Images
The antibody, called SP1-77, is the result of a collaborative effort from researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Duke University. Results from mouse studies they’ve conducted were recently published in the journal Science Immunology, and they look promising.
But what does it mean, exactly, to have an antibody that can neutralize all variants of COVID-19, and what kind of impact will this have on vaccines in the future? Here’s what you need to know.

What is SP1-77?

SP1-77 is an antibody developed by researchers that so far can neutralize all forms of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was created after researchers modified a mouse model that was originally made to search for broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV, which also mutates.

The mice used in the study have built-in human immune systems that mimic the way our immune systems develop better antibodies when we’re exposed to a pathogen. The researchers inserted two human gene segments into the mice, which then created a range of antibodies that humans might make. The mice were then exposed to SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein (which is what the virus uses to latch onto your cells) and produced nine different families of antibodies that bound to the spike protein to try to neutralize it.
Those antibodies were then tested and one—SP1-77—was able to neutralize Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and all Omicron strains (including the current circulating ones) of COVID-19.

The antibody works in a slightly different way than many of the antibodies people make to vaccines. To infect you, SARS-CoV-2 has to first attach to ACE2 receptors in your cells. The current COVID-19 vaccines block this binding from happening by attaching to the spike protein’s receptor-binding domain (RBD) at certain spots, a press release from Boston Children’s Hospital explains.
The SP1-77 antibody also binds to the RBD, but doesn’t prevent the virus from binding to ACE2 receptors. What it does do is block the virus from fusing its outer membrane with the membrane of your cells, which is what needs to happen to make you sick.
“SP1-77 binds the spike protein at a site that so far has not been mutated in any variant, and it neutralizes these variants by a novel mechanism,” study co-author Tomas Kirchhausen, Ph.D., said in a statement. “These properties may contribute to its broad and potent activity.”

What does this mean for the future of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments?

It’s not clear right now. It’s important to note that this research was done in mice—not humans—although studies on the antibody are ongoing.
“This is very early-stage proof-of-concept work to illustrate that broadly neutralizing antibodies can be generated using a mouse model,” says Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Such work, if replicated and expanded, could form the basis of new monoclonal antibody products as well as a vaccine.”
Experts say that a vaccine that could take out all variants of COVID-19 would definitely be welcome. “We’d love to have a vaccine that is active against all circulating variants, including those yet to come,” says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. “It’s the holy grail of vaccines.”
That could potentially mean that you would only need to get a COVID-19 shot or booster once a year or even less frequently, depending on how long protection from the vaccine lasted, Dr. Russo says.
The researchers have applied for a patent for the SP1-77 antibody and mouse model used to create it, and plan to create something that can be used by the general public if all goes well.


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