Deltacron: a new COVID variant or just a lab error?
- Cyprus reported a new COVID variant over the weekend it called "deltacron".
- Global health experts are casting doubts it could have resulted from a lab error.
- Emory's Dr Titanji warns 'recombination' is a real risk with Coronaviruses.
Reports of a new COVID variant emerged over the weekend from Cyprus that they dubbed “deltacron” as it had a genetic makeup similar to both delta and the omicron variant, but the global health experts now suspect it to be a false alarm.
How could it be a false alarm?
According to the World Health Organization’s Dr Krutika Kuppalli, the supposed “new variant” could have resulted from lab contamination. In a recent tweet, she said:
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Let’s make this a teachable moment, there is no such thing as Deltacron. Just like there is no such thing as Flurona. Omicron and Delta did NOT form a super variant. This is likely sequencing artefact (lab contamination of Omicron fragments in a Delta specimen).
Dr Leondios Kostrikis, who first reported “deltacron”, however, reiterated in an interview with Bloomberg that the new variant did not emerge because of a “technical error”.
The case identified indicate an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event.
Recombination is a real possibility
Other notable names that see “deltacron” as contamination include Dr Boghuma Kabisen Titanji of Emory University. She, however, warned in her tweet that recombination was indeed a risk considering the two variants are coexisting.
Recombination can occur in Coronavirus. With delta and omicron both in circulation, dual infection with both variants increases this concern. Will this lead to more concerning variants? That is possible, but nobody knows.
Dr Tom Peacock of Imperial College London and Fatima Tokhmafshan of McGill University also believe deltacron to be a product of a lab error.