Everything You Need To Know About The Claims Of A Deltacron Variant

Omicron, the variant first discovered in South Africa, has been spreading rapidly, causing a spike in COVID-19 cases. While vaccines are still effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, Omicron is causing breakthrough infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some variants pop up and fade away while others continue to spread. COVID-19 variants have differences from the original virus, affecting how contagious they are and the severity of their symptoms. The more the virus spreads, the more opportunity it has to change, making it increasingly challenging to stop.

A newly discovered variant has been reported by researchers in Cyprus. Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, has named the new strain Deltacron because it has Delta genomes in addition to genetic signatures similar to Omicron. Kostrikis and his team report finding 25 cases of Deltacron, but they aren't sure if it's a strain that will continue to spread or disappear. Kostrikis believes Omicron will take over Deltacron. On January 7th, his team reported the findings to GISAID, an international pandemic and epidemic virus-tracking database (via Bloomberg).

Deltacron could be a lab mistake

Other scientists are claiming Deltacron is simply a lab error. Tom Peacock, a virologist at the Imperial Department of Infectious Disease in the U.K., took to Twitter to tell the public that "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."

Basically, labs now analyzing Delta and Omicron samples could pick up traces of older genetic material, mistakenly showing a variant with both Delta and Omicron, as if it is a new variant combining both strains. Per Bloomberg, Kostrikis is defending his findings, arguing that there is evidence of this new variant in other countries, including in Israel. 

Peacock concedes that it is worth seeing if more cases appear, but he still suspects it is a result of contamination.