Wednesday, January 26, 2022

DeltaCron: Is There a New Version at Mass, and Should We Worry?

Social media was recently active with news that scientists in Cyprus claimed to have discovered a new hybrid version of SARS-CoV-2. Named Deltachron, it appears to be a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants. However, other experts have questioned whether it is indeed a newer variant, suggesting that the discovery may have been due to contamination during laboratory testing. Medical News Today looks at the arguments on both sides.

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Is there a new SARS-CoV-2 variant uncovered? Image credits: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

On 7 January, scientists in Cyprus reported that they had discovered a new variant of SARS-CoV-2. The variant named DeltaCron is said to be a hybrid of Delta and Omicron.

The scientists are led by Dr. Leondios Kostrikis, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Cyprus.

Dr. Kostrikis pointed out that the version has a delta-like genome With Omicron characteristics. The team said DeltaCron was identified in 25 individuals — some hospitalized and some in the community.

The identity of DeltaCron sparked widespread news coverage and much debate on social media, but experts have questioned the findings.

Director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom, Dr. Jeffrey Barrett believes the findings are due to a laboratory error.

“It is almost certainly not a biological recombinant of the Delta and Omicron lineages,” he says. “Obvious oomicron mutations are located precisely and specifically in a part of the sequence encoding the spike gene (amino acids 51 to 143) affected by a technical artifact in certain sequential processes.”

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London in the UK, took to Twitter to dismiss the findings, saying:[t]The Cyprus ‘Deltakron’ sequences reported by several major media outlets appear to be quite clearly corrupted.”

In a separate tweet, he clarified nonetheless that this was not due to poor laboratory practice, adding that it “happens in every sequencing laboratory sometime.”

Evolutionary evidence seems to support his observations. Several experts have said that if DeltaCron was indeed a new recombinant variant, the samples would cluster on the same branch of SARS-CoV-2. phylogenetic tree,

However, DeltaCron appears randomly on many branches, which experts say is a sure sign of contamination.

However, Dr. Kostrikis defended his findings. They stressed that since the DeltaCron infection rate was higher in hospitalized patients than non-hospitalized individuals, the contamination hypothesis was less likely.

In addition, the samples identified as DeltaCron were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country, reducing the potential for laboratory errors, he said.

The Cyprus team has since reported another 52 cases of DeltaCron Cyprus Mail, Cyprus’ health minister also defended the findings, saying the unprecedented research made him “proud of our scientists.”

While many experts have dismissed claims that the DeltaCron is a new hybrid version, others are willing to wait for more evidence.

talking to medical news todayDr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, commented that “[f]To resolve this, local epidemiological investigations in Cyprus are necessary. The world is certainly watching.”

“Deltakron has shown great interest in the COVID scientific community. Whether this is, in fact, a new variant that emerged as a result of a combination of Delta and Omicron viruses from a simultaneous infection in a human or whether it was caused by a laboratory accident, still remains to be determined.

– Dr. William Schaffner

Whether this evidence will come from Cyprus or elsewhere is questionable. MNT Contacted Dr. Kostrikis, but he was still awaiting a response when this article went to press.

Meanwhile, Cypriot health officials have said the new version is not a cause for concern. So, even if DeltaCron does exist, the little evidence so far suggests that we shouldn’t be too concerned about it.

For live updates on the latest developments regarding COVID-19, click here.

Nation World News Desk
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