Scientists have denied claims that a new variant combining the Delta and Omicron Covid strains has emerged, instead saying it was likely to be caused by contamination.
Reports surfaced this weekend that a new strain of Covid with the brand “Deltacron” had been discovered in a laboratory in Cyprus. However, experts said this is unlikely – with a World Health Organization scientist who insisted that “Deltacron” reports are “fake” the mirror.
The virologist Dr. Tom Peacock of Imperial College is one of those experts who say the anomaly appears to be “very clear contamination” because it does not meet the criteria for a new variant.
And the Covid expert Dr. Krutika Kuppalli of the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote on Twitter: “Deltacron is fake and is probably due to a sequencing artifact (laboratory contamination of Omicron sequence fragments in a Delta sample).
“Let’s not merge infectious disease names and leave it to celebrity couples.”
Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, said his team discovered 25 samples of Covid that appeared to combine the Delta and Omicron strains.
He told reporters, “There are currently omicron and delta co-infections and we have found this strain that is a combination of the two.”
It got a lot of feedback on social media, with “Deltacron” trending much of the weekend, but experts aren’t convinced.
Dr. In response, Peacock wrote, “The Cypriot ‘Deltacron’ sequences reported by several major media outlets clearly appear to be contamination – they do not cluster on a phylogenetic tree and have an entire arctic primer sequencing amplicon of Omicron in an otherwise delta backbone. “
In a Twitter thread debunking the “variant,” he said, “Delta sequences with strange mutations in amplicon 72 have been around for ages (for example, Delta + Mu NTD insertion), but they always show this non-monophyletic pattern and are almost always easier to explain by this primer problem, which exacerbates very little contamination. “
Prof. Martin Michaelis, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Kent, told The Mirror that it was not yet clear whether the samples were real or the rest was due to a sequencing error or contamination.
He said, “As far as I can tell, researchers from Cyprus have sequenced samples of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and obtained genomic sequences that combine features of the Omicron and Delta variants. It is not yet clear whether it is a real or a sequence error or the result of contamination.
“If different viruses of different SARS-CoV-2 variants are analyzed on the same machines, you can get sequences that look like they come from a new virus, but are really just a mixture of different viruses. So we have to wait. ”As further investigations will show. In any case, “Deltacron” is not an official name. “
However, he cautioned that if two viruses infect the same cell, strains can combine, meaning a hybrid variant is formed.
Prof. Michaelis continues: “Coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2 basically have the ability to recombine their genetic material when two viruses infect the same cell.
“It is therefore possible that if someone is infected with an Omicron virus and a Delta virus at the same time, new hybrid viruses will emerge that have a new combination of the characteristics of the two original viruses.
“With simultaneous high Omicron and Delta transmission, such hybrid viruses can develop at some point.”