Scientists in Cyprus have discovered a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants dubbed “Deltacron.” Though some in the scientific community have disputed the supposed finding, it is concerning that yet another variant combination might have emerged in the aftermath of Omicron. Omicron has stifled activity in public settings, lead to overcrowded hospitals, and tanked the stock market in back-to-back weeks.
A Closer Look at the Deltacron Variant
The new coronavirus variant is supposedly a combination of the two previous strains. However, some supposed experts insist the claim from the Cyprus scientists should be quashed as it is the result of an alleged contamination. A University of Cyprus professor of biological sciences insists he and his team pinpointed 25 cases of the allegedly new strain. The Deltacron strain is named as such since it has Delta’s genomes and markers from Omicron.
The professor went on to state the Delta and Omicron infections are co-infections. He also states the strain is a combination of the two variants. The Cyprus scientific team insists it will see if the strain is more contagious or pathological as time progresses.
The Origins of Deltacron
The Cyprus team of scientists insists the initial Deltacron case was identified in a patient with the Omicron coronavirus strain who also exhibited Delta variant markers. The scientists’ in-depth analysis supposedly reveals Deltacron is found more in patients who are hospitalized with coronavirus than individuals who test positive yet are not hospitalized. The scientists qualified this statement by indicating Deltacron is more likely to be found in individuals who have already been hospitalized with the virus as opposed to those who are in the hospital for the first time.
The Cyprus scientists have transmitted their findings to an international database in Germany that tracks the development of viruses. Unfortunately, the head Cyprus scientist who led the research effort insists Deltacron will linger for the foreseeable future. Though the team leader insists Omicron will eventually supplant Deltacron, it will take some time for Deltacron to fade away.
However, there is also the potential that Deltacron is not real and merely results from contaminated lab materials. It must be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a statement indicating that the Deltacron variant is not real.
Krutika Kuppalli, MD FIDSA, took to Twitter to echo the WHO sentiment, issuing the following statement:
“Okay people let’s make this a teachable moment, there is no such thing as #Deltacron. #Omicron and #Delta did NOT form a super variant. This is likely a sequencing artifact (lab contamination of Omicron fragments in a Delta specimen). Let’s not merge (sic) names of infectious diseases and leave it to celebrity couples.”
Dr. Tom Peacock, a virology specialist at Imperial College, insists the Cyprus scientists’ findings are “…quite clearly contamination.” Peacock also went on to state the findings do not meet the criteria necessary to be viewed as a new variant of the virus.
Peacock elaborated, “The Cypriot ‘Deltacron’ sequences reported by several large media outlets look to be quite clearly contamination — they do not cluster on a phylogenetic tree and have a whole Artic primer sequencing amplicon of Omicron in an otherwise Delta backbone.”
Deltacron Won’t Be the Last COVID-19 Mutation
Virologists around the world insist Delta, Omicron, and the supposed Deltacron variant are only a brief preview of what’s to come in the context of COVID-19’s evolution. These experts insist there is the potential for Deltacron to morph into a never-ending litany of variants that cause hospital overflows and significantly interrupt economic activity.
Leonidas Kostrikis, the aforementioned professor of biological sciences with the University of Cyprus, writes, “Delta sequences with strange mutations in amplicon 72 have been turning up for ages (for example Delta + Mu NTD insertion) however, they always show this non-monophyletic pattern and are nearly always more easily explained by this primer issue exacerbating very low-level contamination.”
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Only time will tell if the new variant of coronavirus is a technical error or a legitimate combination of previous variants that has the potential to wreak havoc on society. What matters most is that there are enough vaccines available to populations around the world to slow the spread of the virus and also prevent it from morphing into new variants. Scientific data shows vaccinated individuals are less likely to spread coronavirus and also less likely to cause its mutations to spiral out of control.
The Scientific Community Will Elaborate on Deltacron in the Days Ahead
Additional information about the supposed Deltacron variant of coronavirus will be revealed in the days and weeks ahead. The ensuing weeks will reveal if the allegedly new strain is comparably pathological or contagious, and also if the strain will prevail over Omicron and Delta or if it will fade away as Omicron continues to tear through the global population at a record rate.