‘Deltacron’ is not real, likely a lab contamination: WHO expert (Ld)

After a scientist in Cyprus claimed that his team has identified a new Covid-19 variant being dubbed as ‘Deltacron’, Indian-origin Covid expert at World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Krutika Kuppalli, has said that Deltacron is not real.

Talking to Twitter, Kuppalli, who is part of the Covid Technical Team, said: “#Deltacron is not real and is likely due to sequencing artifact (lab contamination of #Omicron sequence fragments in a #Delta specimen).

“Let’s not merge names of infectious diseases and leave it to celebrity couples.”

Earlier, Tom Peacock, a virologist at the Imperial College London, had said that the Cypriot ‘Deltacron’ sequences reported by several large media outlets look to be quite clearly “contaminated”.

“When new variants come through sequencing lab contamination isn’t that uncommon (very 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.

According to him, Omicron has likely not circulated for long enough, in a large enough population, to produce a true recombinant.

True recombinants don’t tend to appear until a few weeks/months after there’s been substantial co-circulation.

“We’re only a couple of weeks into Omicron – I really doubt there are any prevalent recombinants yet,” he said.

Martin Michaelis, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Kent, told The Mirror that it is not yet clear whether the samples are real, or the rest of 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, and received genomic sequences that combine features of the Omicron and Delta variants. It is not yet clear whether this is real or a sequencing error or the consequence of contamination.”

Earlier, Leondios Kostrikis, the head of the laboratory of biotechnology and molecular virology at the University of Cyprus, had claimed that his team had detected a new variant “Deltacron” in 25 people.

According to Kostrikis, of the 25 samples taken in Cyprus, 11 were hospitalised due to the virus, while 14 were from the general population.

However, the new variant was not something to worry about at the moment, Cyprus Health Minister Michalis Hadjipandelas was quoted as saying.

It is “quite possible” that the new strain has not been found elsewhere, and the sequences of the cases have been sent to GISAID, an open access database that tracks developments in the coronavirus, the Cyprus Mail reported.

Molecular biologist Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, tweeted: “Deltacron is a scariant. One less thing to worry about.”

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