Experts cast doubts over reported ‘deltacron’ variant, say likely due to lab contamination

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  • Global experts are skeptical of reports of a new potential COVID strain that appears to combine both Delta and Omicron variants and is called “Deltakron”.
  • Reports of a possible new variant to be found in Cyprus appeared over the weekend.
  • Experts have said that it is more likely the result of a laboratory processing error.

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Global health experts are casting doubt on reports of a new possible COVID-19 mutation, which appears to be a combination of both delta and omicron forms, dubbed “Deltakron”, saying it is more likely that ” Stress” is the result of a laboratory processing error.

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Over the weekend it was reported that a possible new variant had been discovered by a researcher in Cyprus. Businesshala News reported on Saturday that Leondios Kostriakis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, called the strain a “deltachron” because of its omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genome.

Kostrikis and his team said they had found 25 cases of the mutation, adding that the report said it was too early to tell at that time whether there were more cases of the apparent new strain or what the impact might have been. Businesshala reported that the findings were sent on January 7 to Gisaid, an international database that tracks changes in the virus.

Deltacron ‘not real’

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Some experts have since cast doubt on the findings, with a World Health Organization official tweeting on Sunday that “Deltakron”, which was trending on social media platforms over the weekend, is “not real” and “due to sequencing artifacts”. Likely to be,” a variation introduced by a non-biological process.

WHO COVID expert Dr Krutika Kuppalli said on Twitter that, in this case, there was likely a “laboratory contamination of omicron fragments in the delta sample”.

In another tweet, he sarcastically said: “Let’s not merge names of infectious diseases and leave it to celebrity couples”

Other scientists agreed that the findings may have been the result of a laboratory error, with Imperial College London virologist Dr Tom Peacock also tweeting that “the Cypriot ‘Deltakron’ sequence reported by several large media outlets is quite clearly contaminated.” look.”

In another tweet, he said that “some of us have taken a look at the sequences and have come to the same conclusion that it does not look like a true recombinant,” referring to possible rearrangements of genetic material.

Fatima Tokhmafshan, a geneticist at the McGill University Health Center’s Research Institute, tweeted that “this is not a recombinant” but “rather b/c laboratory contamination. [because] Given the recent GISAID submission from Cyprus, the clustering and mutational profiles indicate a no mutation consensus.”

Another high-profile scientist, Dr. Boghuma Kabysen Titanji, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University in Atlanta, advised a cautious approach, tweeting on Sunday that “on the #deltacron story, simply because I have a lot to say about it.” Times have been asked. In the last 24 hours, please interpret with caution. Currently available information is pointing to contamination of a sample as opposed to actual recombination of #delta and #omicron variants.”

However, she also noted that a possible admixture of genetic material belonging to the Delta and Omicron variants is a possibility as both strains continue to proliferate, and this is a related proposition.

“Coronaviruses can have recombination. The enzyme that copies their genome has a tendency to slip off the RNA strand it is copying and then rejoin where it left off. #delta And #omicron Both are in vogue, double infection with both types raises this concern,” she tweeted.

For his part, the scientist who announced he had discovered “Deltakron” has defended his findings, telling Businesshala on Sunday that the findings are not the result of a “technical error.”

In an emailed statement, Kostrikis said the cases he identified “indicate an evolutionary pressure for an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and are not the result of a single recombination event. “

He also reportedly said that the findings come after samples were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country and that at least one sequence from Israel deposited in a global database displayed genetic characteristics of “DeltaCron”. CNBC has contacted Kostrikis for further comment and has yet to receive a response.

Cypriot Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela said on Saturday that the ministry was aware of the “Deltakron” report and has nothing to worry about at the moment. According to a local media report,

He said more on the disputed version was to be presented this week, adding that he was proud of the country’s scientists for their findings.

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