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Deltacron: New Variant or Lab Error?

The new Deltacron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus — formed from the combination of characteristics of Delta (B.1.671.2) and Omicron (B.1.1.529) — has its existence questioned by experts. In theory, the strain of the covid-19 virus could be an error caused by contamination of samples in the laboratory. The situation is still under investigation.

  • Deltacron: Another variant of the coronavirus is discovered in Cyprus
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In recent days, the professor at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology, Leondios Kostrikis, announced that he had identified the Deltacron variant in 25 samples of covid-19 . After the discovery of the alleged variant, the researchers submitted details of the discovery to an international database that tracks the evolution of the coronavirus, GISAID.

Deltacron discovery could be a case of contamination of samples in the laboratory (Image: Reproduction/Photocreo/Envato)

Since the announcement, the situation has raised suspicions and, recently, a stream of scientists has questioned the validity of the discovery. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not classified the strain as a Variant of Interest (VOI) or a Variant of Concern (VOC).

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Is it a new variant or not?

Regarding the origins of Deltacron, Kostrikis states that "there are currently co-infections by Ômicron and Delta and we discovered this strain that is a combination of the two". In other words, the origin of the new variant could be a patient infected by both strains, From the interaction of both in the infected organism, Deltacron emerged.

According to researcher Kostrikis, the findings came after the samples were processed and passed through various sequencing procedures. In a statement released on Sunday (9), the scientist denied the existence of any error or case of contamination in the laboratory and defended the natural formation of the new strain.

Lab error?

Since the announcement, the Deltacron theme has gone viral on social media and has been shared thousands of times. However, the Cyprus discovery is not a consensus and raises a number of discussions within the scientific community about its validity.

"Omicron and Delta did not form a super variant," Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease researcher at the WHO, said on social media. According to the scientist, the discovery represents a case of "laboratory contamination", where "fragments of Ômicron [interacted] in a sample of Delta".

Scientists question validity of Deltacron discovery (Image: Reproduction/Artem Podrez/Pexels)

"The Deltacron sequences, reported by various media outlets, clearly appear to be contamination – they do not cluster together in a phylogenetic tree," said virologist Tom Peacock of Imperial College London.

"I should also add — this isn't really related to 'lab quality' or anything like that — that this literally happens to all sequencing labs occasionally," added the virologist.

In the coming weeks, the emergence and identification of new Deltacron cases should allow a more accurate analysis of the situation by scientists. On the other hand, it is also possible that the discovery will be discarded and that it will be confirmed if there really was an error or sample contamination.

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