Scientists in Cyprus claimed to have discovered a variant of COVID-19 that combines Delta and Omicron, naming it “Deltacron” — but experts quickly dismissed that claim and blamed the result on contamination, according to reports.
Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, and his team identified 25 cases of the hybrid strain, which they named “Deltacron” because of omicron-like markers in Delta genomes, Bloomberg News reports.
“There is currently a co-infection of Omicron and Delta and we found this strain that is a mixture of these two,” Kostrikis told Sigma TV, according to Bloomberg.
“We will see in the future whether this strain is more pathogenic or contagious or whether it will prevail” against the two main variants, Delta and Omicron, he added.
Kostrikis, head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology, said his team’s analysis shows that “deltacron” is found more often in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 than in those with the disease who were not hospitalized.
Bloomberg reports that Cypriot researchers have submitted their findings to GISAID, a Germany-based international database that tracks viruses.
The team leader also said he believes Omicron will outperform Deltacron.
But other experts have already thrown cold water on the results.
Dr Krutika Kupalli, an infectious disease expert at the World Health Organization, argued that Deltacron was “not real” and likely due to laboratory contamination.
“Okay folks, let’s make this moment teachable, there’s no such thing as a #Deltacron,” Infectious Diseases Doctor Books. “#Omicron and #Delta didn’t make up an impressive variant. This instrument is likely a sequencing (laboratory contamination of omicron fragments in a delta sample).”
“Let’s not combine the names of infectious diseases and leave it to celebrity couples,” she added.
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College, said the results were “clearly contaminated” and did not meet the criteria for it to be considered a new variable.
He wrote: “The Cypriot ‘deltacron’ sequences reported by many large media appear to be clearly contaminated – they do not cluster on the phylogenetic tree and have the entire amplicon of the omicron sequence in the delta spine,” she wrote.
Delta sequences with peculiar mutations in amplicon 72 appear over the ages (eg, a Delta + Mu NTD insertion), however, they always show this non-monotypic pattern and are always more easily explained by a primer problem that exacerbates the level very low pollution.
Greek virologist Dr. Gkikas Magiorkinis also denied that the discovery was a new variant.
“With regard to the Deltacron (a mixture of delta and omicron) in Cyprus that has been heard a lot in the Greek media recently, the first independent analyzes show that this is a technical error of the laboratory in the process of reading the genome…,” an expert at the National Kapodistrian University in Athens wrote, reported The newspaper “Cyprus Mail”.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bogoma Kapisin Titanji, a global health expert, also agreed with the pollution theory.
“Currently available information indicates sample contamination rather than true recombination of the #Delta and #Omicron variables,” she wrote. on Twitter.
“The best thing we can do besides worrying about it and making different names that sound like the ‘Transformers’ villain, is to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone and combine vaccination with other strategies that give the virus fewer chances of spreading,” Titans added.