Recently, scientists from Cyprus claimed to have discovered a new Covid-19 variant that was a mixture of both Delta and Omicron. Cypriot Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela named it “Deltacron”. He said that this strain had omicron-like genetic fingerprints that were identified inside delta genomes. Reportedly, Cyprus found 25 similar cases and sent the data to an international database (GISAID). The Cypriot scientists were doubtful if the new variant was more pathogenic or contagious. However, soon after, a British scientist, Tom Peacock, refuted that claim and said it was not a new variant but a “lab contamination”.
What is Deltacron?
Peacock, a virologist from Imperial College London, said that the alleged ‘Deltacron’ COVID sequences seem to be “clearly contaminated”. He said that whenever new variants go through sequencing, there is a risk of lab contamination caused by tiny volumes of liquid. Only a handful of media outlets covered the news, and big media like BBC hasn’t touched the topic yet because of incomplete information. Peacock also pointed this out on Twitter when Cypriot scientists claimed on Sunday.
As per Peacock, Omicron has not spread much in huge populations to produce recombinant DNA (rDNA). In the majority of the cases, true recombinants do not appear until the virus has circulated substantially over several months. rDNA technology cuts and pastes DNA sequences together by using enzymes. These sequences can be placed in different directions that transport the DNA into an appropriate host cell to be duplicated. Omicron has been here for only a few weeks, so Peacock is doubtful that there are any rDNAs yet.
On the contrary to Peacock’s claim, the genetic details of “Deltacron” sent to the GISAID database reportedly failed to resemble any recombinant. The head of the biotechnology and molecular virology laboratory at the University of Cyprus, Leondios Kostrikis and his team discovered the “new variant”. They took 25 samples, out of which 14 were general population, and 11 were hospitalized due to coronavirus. The team also claimed that the infections from this new strain were higher among hospitalized patients than non-hospitalized ones, refuting Peacock’s theory of lab contamination. However, they also said that there was currently nothing to worry about.
The reports have triggered a funny row on social media. Eric Topol, a molecular biologist from Scripps Research Translational Institute in the US, pulled the leg of Cypriot scientists on Twitter. The majority thinks that Cyprus might be trying to scare its population, so they get vaccination quickly.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not given any remarks on this development yet.
Public Responds with More Memes
Meanwhile, the general public has been busy with their own kind of fun on social media. Given the uncertainty surrounding “deltacron” they have made hilarious memes to mock governments. Some called it a special welcome gift of the year 2022, and others joked about it being another useful tool to push vaccination drive.
Creative folks tend to greet every new varient of COVID-19 with symbolic memes. A few weeks ago, Omicron memes were going viral on social media.