Experts said on Monday that an alleged hybrid coronavirus mutation dubbed “deltacron” was discovered in a Cypriot lab is most likely the result of laboratory contamination, not a disturbing new variant.
Cypriot media reported the find on Saturday, describing it as having “the genetic background for the delta variant as well as some of the omicron mutations”.
While it’s possible for coronaviruses to combine genetically, it’s rare, and scientists analyzing the so-called “deltacron” discovery say it’s unlikely.
“The Cypriot ‘deltacron’ sequences reported by several mainstream media appear to be quite clearly contamination,” tweeted Tom Peacock, a virologist in the infectious diseases department at Imperial College London, over the weekend.
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Jeffrey Barrett, head of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at Britain’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, said the suspected mutations are located on a part of the genome that is vulnerable to errors in some sequencing procedures.
“It is almost certainly not a biological recombinant of the delta and omicron lines,” he said on Monday.
Scientists are eager to tackle a deluge of disinformation about Covid-19, much of which is circulating online.
Last week, unverified reports of a circulating ‘flurona’ or ‘flurone’ virus – a combination of the flu and the coronavirus – which the World Health Organization (WHO) dismissed on Monday.
“Let’s not use words like deltacron, flurona or flurone. Please, ”tweeted Maria van Kerkhove, infectious disease epidemiologist at WHO.
“These words imply a combination of viruses / variants and this is not happening,” she said.
While people can suffer from both the flu and the coronavirus, the two viruses cannot combine.
Unlike new variants of Covid-19 like omicron, which have a strong impact on the course of the pandemic, the cases of simultaneous infection of the flu and the coronavirus are not new.
Since the start of the pandemic, the coronavirus has given rise to dozens of variants, four of which have been designated “of concern” by the WHO: alpha, beta, delta and omicron.
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Cypriot Scientists Discover New ‘Deltacron’ COVID-19 Strain