Is Deltacron real? What scientists say about Covid-19 strain found in Cyprus

By | Written by Poulomi Ghosh
Jan 09, 2022 04:39 PM IST

Virologist Tom Peacock said on social media that Deltacron may not be an actual variant, but possibly a result of contamination, triggering debate.

A researcher in Cyprus has reportedly discovered a strain of the coronavirus that combines the Delta and Omicron variant and has been nicknamed as Deltacron. At a time when the world is in the grip of Omicron, the latest variant of SARS-CoV-2, reports of this apparently new variant triggered fresh apprehension. As Deltacron trended on social media, many experts opined that it is not a real variant. However, the Cyprus scientist has defended the finding. In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, the said that the cases he has identified indicate “an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event”.

A giant statue of a face mask in Chennai, India. (AFP)
A giant statue of a face mask in Chennai, India. (AFP)

Here is what we know so far:

1. Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, called the strain 'Deltacron'. Reports said the strain has Omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes.

2. 25 cases of Deltacron have been found so far, Bloomberg reported. Much about this strain or these cases remains unknown.

3. In an interview, Kostrikis said, "We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail."

4. The sequences of the 25 Deltacron cases were sent to GISAID, the international database that tracks changes in the virus, on January 7.


5. Virologist Tom Peacock said on social media that Deltacron may not be an actual variant, but possibly a result of contamination. "So 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," he explained.

"Recombinants are definitely worth keeping an eye on and almost definitely will eventually be found, this particular example is almost definitely contamination though," he wrote.

6. Physician-scientist Eric Topol termed Deltacron as a 'scariant', instead of a variant. "New subtype of ‘scariant’ that isn't even a real variant but scares a lot of people, unnecessarily," he tweeted.

7. Kostrikis said Deltacron infection is higher among patients hospitalised for Covid-19 than among non-hospitalised patients, which rules out the contamination hypothesis. “What’s more, the samples were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country. And at least one sequence from Israel deposited in a global database exhibits genetic characteristics of Deltacron," he said.

“These findings refute the undocumented statements that deltacron is a result of a technical error,” Kostrikis said.

It may be noted that Deltacron is not any official name. Before this, the word Delmicron became popular to denote a combination of Delta and Omicron. These are not official names given by WHO. Neither are these officially acknowledged variants.

In the recent past, apart from Omicron, the new variant which has been reported is IHU. Both Omicron and IHU were first identified in November. While Omicron went on to become the predominant variant, IHU remained limited. Isreal recently reported cases of Florona, which was believed to be a double infection of corona and flu.

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