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Deltacron: A New Variant or a Laboratory Error?

Deltacron: A New Variant or a Laboratory Error?

Recently, news broke about the “Deltacron¹” variant, which reportedly combines two of the most feared SARS-CoV-2 variants: Delta and Omicron. While some speculate that this was just due to lab contamination, there are scientists who firmly believe that it was not a mistake. How did the Deltacron variant come to be, and should we be worried about it? Find out here.

What Viruses Are Capable Of

Since the pandemic began, people have become increasingly aware of what viruses, such as the COVID-19 virus, are capable of.

We understand that they can mutate, with each new variant having distinct characteristics from its predecessors. For instance, Delta, which was once declared as the “fastest and fittest” variant is now being overshadowed by the Omicron, considering the latter’s numerous mutations.

The possibility of reinfection is also there, especially among the unvaccinated. This is why one person can get COVID-19 several times.

Experts also say that a patient can be infected with two different viruses (flu and COVID-19)² or two different strains (Alpha and Beta) at the same time³.

Is it possible for two variants to combine and create a new variant that bears both of their characteristics?

The Deltacron Scare

Just as the world started to recover from the impact of the Delta variant, Omicron came into the picture.

Experts say Omicron has more mutations than Delta, is “hypertransmissible,” might evade immunity, and has higher reinfection rates.

What’s concerning is that over the weekend, reports about the “Deltacron” variant in Cyrpus emerged. News explained that it is a variant resulting from the combination of Delta and Omicron.

But has it really happened or was it just a laboratory error like some speculate?

Lab Contamination Likely Responsible for the Deltacron Variant⁴

Some experts believe that the reported “Deltacron” variant was just the result of a common laboratory error.

Dr. Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, explained that during sequencing, a part of the Omicron variant might have been accidentally inserted into the Delta’s genetic material.

Aris Katzourakis, a professor of evolution and genomics at Oxford University, further explained that during sequencing, technicians need to divide the genetic makeup into fragments, analyze them, then put them back together in a computer.

A portion of the Delta variant appears to be prone to “dropping out” and is “sensitive to contamination.” Hence, it’s likely that the reported Deltacron variant didn’t result from the biological recombination of Delta and Omicron lineages. It might have been laboratory contamination and not a new variant.

Still, experts say two lineages can combine and create a new variant.

Others Believe It Wasn’t A Mistake¹

Cyprus officials already stated that they are not worried about Deltacron, despite having identified 25 sequences.

Leonidos Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology, first identified the Deltacron variant. And he believes it wasn’t just a mistake.

For one, cases of the Deltacron variant were higher in hospitalized COVID-19 patients than those who didn’t need confinement. This, perhaps, suggests increased severity.

Secondly, “the samples were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country.” In fact, they found one sequence from Israel that has the characteristics of Deltacron.

Still, experts like Aris Katzourakis believe that contamination when sequencing lots of samples “happens all the time.” He even called it a “common error.”

Key Takeaways

Over the weekend, reports about the “Deltacron variant” emerged. Some experts believe that it was only due to contamination, an error commonly occurring during the sequencing process. However, Leonidos Kostrikis, the scientist who first identified the “deltacron” believes it wasn’t a mistake.

As of this writing, the World Health Organization has yet to release an official statement about the Deltacron reports.

More Health News here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


1 Coronavirus: ‘Deltacron’ discovery not a mistake, says scientist who claims he found new variant, https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/3162762/coronavirus-deltacron-discovery-not-mistake-says-scientist-who, Accessed January 11, 2021

2 Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19​, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm, Accessed January 11, 2021

3 Rare case shows it’s possible to have two Covid variants at the same time, experts say,https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/12/belgian-woman-infected-with-two-covid-variants-at-the-same-time.html, Accessed January 11, 2021

4 ‘Deltacron’: Lab contamination likely responsible for Delta and Omicron hybrid, scientists say, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/deltacron-variant-cases-cyprus-covid-b1989961.html, Accessed January 11, 2021

5 Experts cast doubts over reported ‘deltacron’ variant, say likely due to lab contamination, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/10/deltacron-variant-prompts-doubts-among-experts-as-possible-lab-error.html, Accessed January 11, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Vincent Sales