DeltaCron' May Not Necessarily Be Deadlier

OP-ED in CNN News18 : 24th March 2022. Co-Authored with Dr. Shashank Heda

‘DeltaCron’ is a variant created from the recombinant events of AY.4 and BA.2, but Omicron itself is a testimony that having aggregated mutations does not necessarily mean a deadlier variants

While the U.K. and the E.U. are noticing a surge of BA.2, the far east, like Japan, and South East, are noticing a variant, strangely called a hybrid between BA.1 and AY.4 (wrongly dubbed Deltacron).

Phenotypic profiling identifies the epidemiological and clinical features associated with a genotype (variant). The latter, though it sounds scarier, is yet awaiting phenotypic profiling. Until the profiling is complete, it will be crying the hoax. Right now, there is no reason to panic until more information is unravelled through surveillance.

First, let’s understand, the term is a misnomer since it gives an impression that it has the worst of both the Delta (morbidity and case fatality) and Omicron (high infectivity).

Agreed, ‘DeltaCron’ is a variant created from the recombinant events of AY.4 and BA.2, but Omicron itself is a testimony that having aggregated mutations does not necessarily mean a deadlier variant. Recombination is possible when two viruses infect the same subject, leading to an exchange of genetic information and the emergence of a new variant.

Precise prediction of an emergent variant is not possible. However, understanding the lability of the RDRP and its intrinsic ability to commit errors, with the emergence of subsequent variants, was (and is) known. To reiterate, the emergence of a new (genetic) variant does not mean the phenotypic profile is scarier than before.

We know a little more about BA.2 since, in some select regions, such as the U.K. and some Baltic nations, it has been observed to have 80% more infectivity than the usual Omicron variant. However, some reports also indicate the subvariant to be 30 to 50 per cent more contagious than BA.1.

According to Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, the wave is likely to emerge faster than expected. According to Dr. Andersen, it may be seen as early as April or a little later in the spring or the early summer. It should be worth noting that rising hospitalizations and deaths may accompany the emergence of the new variant. If April to July is the possible estimation for the U.S., it may be 4 to 6 weeks in the same range before or after for India. Now, this is a peak period for academic and agricultural activities. While agriculture is based on nature, academic activities can still be calibrated to have minimal impact on the academic sector.

It is presumed that the residual immunity from previous Omicron infection or vaccination will reduce the morbidity and the associated fatalities.

Those elderly above age 70, those with immunosuppression (such as cancer chemotherapy, HIV, etc.), should be targeted as a national priority and a strategy. The persistence of infection in these categories will provide a milieu for spread.

Absolutely not! However, we need to restart wearing masks. Social distancing and hygiene practices followed earlier are the best place to start.

Absolute efforts should be made to avoid any disruption to economic, professional, or academic activities. Social activities can be calibrated based on CovidRxExchange’s Sliding Scale Model. Customized nomograms for local areas should be built to drive local rationale. If only the risk emerges faster than anticipated, should we first restructure academic activities, and with persistence or increasing intensity, we should cherry-pick professional activities. Business, especially non-contact activities, should be offered more working hours. Multiple shifts, work from home, extended hours should be seriously explored.

Remember, Covid is not just a disease of aggregation but also dissemination and vulnerability. If only we focus on these fundamental elements, we should have no challenge managing future waves.

Co-Author Dr. Shashank Heda is the Founder and CEO of COVIDRxExchange and works as a Business Technology Advisor and an Entrepreneur based in the US.

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