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Deltacron: Is It A New COVID Strain? A Combination Of Delta And Omicron? Explained

It has been reported that a strain of COVID-19 containing both delta and omicron has been found in Cyprus, according to Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology.

"There are currently omicron and delta co-infections, and we found this strain that is a combination of these two," Kostrikis said in an interview with Sigma TV Friday. The discovery was named 'deltacron' due to the identification of omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes, he said [1].

A UK-based virologist has, however, called it a 'lab contamination' and not a new strain. According to Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, the Cypriot Deltacron sequences that multiple large media outlets have reported appear to be entirely 'contaminated' [2].

"When new variants come through sequencing, lab contamination isn't that uncommon (very tiny volumes of liquid can cause this) - just usually these fairly clearly contaminated sequences are not reported by major media outlets," Peacock said in a Twitter thread on Sunday [3].

So, what is Deltacron really?

Deltacron: Everything You Need To Know

Omicron Has Likely Not Circulated For Long Enough

  • According to the UK virologist, Omicron has not circulated in a large enough population long enough to produce a recombinant strain.
  • In other words, viral recombination occurs when viruses from two different parental strains infect the same host cell and interact during replication to produce virus progeny that contains aspects of both parents [4].
  • True recombinants do not usually appear for several weeks or months following extensive cocirculation.
  • "We're only a couple of weeks into Omicron - I really doubt there are any prevalent recombinants yet," he said [5].

More Information On 'Deltacron'

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet commented on this development.
  • Additionally, the genetic details of Deltacron published in the GISAID database do not resemble that of a recombinant [6].
  • Leondios Kostrikis stated earlier that his team detected a new variant of Deltacron in 25 people.
  • Cypriot health minister Michalis Hadjipandelas was quoted as saying that the new variant was not something to worry about at the present time.
  • According to the Cyprus Mail, there is a possibility that the new strain of Coronavirus has not been detected elsewhere, and the sequences of the cases have been sent to GISAID, an open-access database that tracks Coronavirus developments.
  • Molecular biologist Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute tweeted: "Deltacron is a 'scariant'. One less thing to worry about" [7].

"We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail" over delta and omicron, Leondios Kostrikis said. However, according to him, this strain will also be replaced by the highly contagious strain of Omicron.

Story first published: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 10:24 [IST]