What’s wrong with Deltacron and should you be concerned?

Omicron and Delta were the two most infectious strains of coronavirus to strike the UK and now there are reports of a new variant that combines characteristics of both.

The supposed new variant, dubbed “Deltacron”, was first identified in Cyprus by Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and director of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology.

According to The Telegraph, Professor Kostrikis sounded the alarm after evaluating samples in his lab that appeared to show the two variants had merged.

However, other scientists believe the hybrid samples are likely the result of contamination in the lab, rather than a new form of Covid-19 generated by mutation.

So far there is no Deltacron case in the UK, but should we be concerned? Here’s what we know so far.

What is Deltacron and where was it found?

Scientists have identified the so-called Deltacron in 25 samples of Covid-19 from Cyprus, according to Forbes. Local news sites report that 11 of the samples were from patients hospitalized with Covid and 14 were from the general public.

Professor Kostrikis maintained his original assessment and objected to suggestions that the variant is simply a laboratory error caused by cross-contamination. He told Bloomberg the samples were being processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country.

“These results refute undocumented claims that Deltacron is the result of a technical error,” he said.

What are other scientists saying?

Research is underway to establish exactly what has (or has not been) found in Cyprus.

Professor Ewan Birney, Deputy Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), explained: “Viruses change their sequence in two ways; by changing single bases (letters) like a misspelling, called mutation, and swapping pieces of different variants that have differences due to previous mutations – like a whole sentence or stanza, called recombination.

“Currently, scientists around the world are carefully examining the possibility of the Deltacron variants, but a key first step is to confirm whether this recombination has actually occurred or whether the results are due to a sequencing artifact when looking at the both Omicron and Delta. “

Should we be worried?

So far, it is too early to say for sure whether this is a lab error or a new variant affecting the general public, but there are no cases in the UK.

There are no new variants under surveillance, according to the UK Health Safety Agency.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, points out that if the supposed variant is a mix of Omicron and Delta, that wouldn’t necessarily be a huge problem, as the UK already has been heavily exposed to both.

“I think the big question will be, is it [Deltacron] about the Omicron competition, and that I don’t know, ”he said.

“I guess it won’t, because Omicron has affected a lot of people already, so if its major antibody epitopes are from Omicron, Omicron is there for a lot of people. If this looks more like Delta, then the vaccine and boosters will be more effective than against Omicron and it would have a hard time spreading in a boosted population.

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