Coronavirus: Is the “Deltacron” variant, discovered in Cyprus, worrying?

A professor at the University of Cyprus said on Friday that he had discovered a new variant of the virus responsible for Covid – 19 : “Deltacron”. “There are currently co-infections with Omicron and Delta , and we found this variant which is a combination of the two ”, declared Leondios Kostrikis to the local channel Sigma TV, in remarks taken up by the American media Bloomberg .

As reported by our colleagues from France Info , the head of the biotechnology and molecular virology laboratory at the Cypriot university claims to have identified this variant in 25 people. According to him, the genetic profile of “Deltacron” would be close to the Delta variant while comprising about ten mutations present in Omicron.

A “scariant” which one should not be afraid of

During the weekend, many international media therefore took up this announcement. But the scientific community quickly became skeptical. Several researchers have pointed out that it was impossible to find a single line in the 20 or so samples supposed to be “Deltacron”.

In a tweet published on Saturday, widely taken up by other scientists, the virologist Tom Peacock thus pointed out a handling error. According to this member of Imperial College London, the 20 genetic sequences uploaded by the Cypriots on the Gisaid database “appear to be quite clearly the result of contamination ”between several samples. A conclusion supported, according to him, by the fact that the sequences in question do not all appear in the same place on the phylogenetic tree of Gisaid, whose role is to present kinship relations between living organisms.

“Deltacron” is a scariant.

One less thing to worry about.

– Eric Topol (@EricTopol) January 9, 2022 The expert considers, moreover, that the observation of a new variant can only be made credible if it is carried out in several laboratories . “” Deltacron “surely comes from contamination during sequencing,” researcher Maria Van Kerkhove, who is leading the fight against Covid – said on Monday on Twitter – 19 at the World Health Organization (WHO). As for the physicist Eric Topol, he evokes a “scariant” (frightening variant) which one should not be afraid of.

The Cypriot scientist persists

In an email sent to Bloomberg Sunday, the Cypriot scientist responds that not all samples have not been sequenced simultaneously, some having been collected in the hospital and others outside. He adds that a similar result has been posted from Israel. Non-alarmist, Leondios Kostrikis believes that “Deltacron” will not replace Omicron, whose contagiousness is particularly high. The scientist insists: “Deltacron” would be the result of the natural evolution of an older variant and not the fusion in the same patient of the two variants that are Delta and Omicron.

So “Deltacron”, a new and overpowering incarnation of the coronavirus? Far from being proven, this hypothesis is the last episode in a series of media frenzy since the dazzling and very real development of the late Omicron variant 25.

Still, the new variants are closely monitored. Epidemiologists regularly warn that a more contagious or more severe incarnation of the coronavirus could change the face of the epidemic. “There are variants that emerge all the time,” French epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet recalled on Monday on BFMTV. But, in recent days, “no variant that is said to be worrying”