Science

Three questions about the new variant called “Deltacron”, a combination of Delta and Omicron

In this back-to-school period, optimism is not de rigueur: for a few weeks, the Delta and Omicron variants have coexisted in France. Until Saturday, January 8, 303,669 new infections linked to Covid-19 were registered in 24 hours. As Europe is swept away by a fifth wave, the US media Bloomberg dropped a bomb on Saturday: according to announcements from the Cyprus health authorities, the Delta and Omicron variants have mutated. In total, 25 cases of this variant called “Deltacron” have been identified. But what do we really know about this new variant? Should we be concerned or is it a false alarm?

  • Where was it found?

The strain of Covid-19 that combines Delta and Omicron has been found on the island of Cyprus. The Bloomberg site collects the words of Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology. “There are currently co-infections from Omicron and Delta and we have found this strain to be a combination of the two,” he said in an interview with Sigma TV on Friday. According to Leondios Kostrikis, genetic signatures similar to Omicron have been identified in delta genomes. Hence its name. The specific variant may not have been identified anywhere else in the world, he said.

  • What do we know about the “Deltacron” variant?

According to the Cyprus Mail, the Cypriot professor added that the variant has been detected in 25 samples taken in Cyprus, of which 11 were from people hospitalized for Covid-19 and 14 from the general population. “The frequency of mutations was higher in those hospitalized, which could mean that there is a correlation between ‘Deltacron’ and hospitalizations,” he said.

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In other words, we know that “Deltacron” would preferentially target patients who are already hospitalized for severe forms of covid. The sequences of the 25 “Deltacron” cases were submitted to GISAID, the international database that tracks changes in the virus, on January 7.

For now, scientists do not have enough data to assess the risks associated with this variant. For his part, Leondios Kostrikis is quite reassuring: according to him, “Deltacron” could well be crushed by Omicron, a variant that is distinguished by its contagiousness. “We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail,” he added. While data is still lacking, some scientists refute the idea of ​​a new variant. As early as late December, the Imperial College London researcher, who was behind much of the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic, said that the “Deltacron” variant discovered in Cyprus looked “clearly like contamination”.

In other words, patient samples contaminated with Omicron, and Delta on the other hand, could have ended up in error in the same analysis. In a Twitter thread, virologist Dr. Tom Peacock gave a technical explanation for his conclusion, stating that “true recombinants only tend to show up several months after substantial co-circulation – we’re only a few weeks after Omicron started. Really I doubt there are still recombinants out there. ”

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The Greek virologist, Dr. Gkikas Magiorkinis of the National and Capodistrian University of Athens and a member of the Greek scientific team also speaks of a scientific error: “Regarding ‘Deltacron’ (mixture of Delta and Omicron) from Cyprus that has been listening a lot In the Greek media recently, the first independent analyzes show that this is a technical error from the laboratory. ”

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We live "in an era fond of entertainment that strives to obscure the original meaning of this word: divert attention"writes Marylin Maeso.by Marylin Maeso

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Donner column CREDIT: LAURA ACQUAVIVAchristophe donner

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