6 June 2024

A senior Thai virologist has dismissed the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, unofficially dubbed “Deltacron” as reported in Cyprus, noting that it is possible that the RNA of both the Delta and Omicron variants was contaminated in laboratories.

Dr. Anan Jongkaewwattana of National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec) said in his Facebook post yesterday (Sunday) that, if there is a new variant as claimed, it must have been separated in the sequencing process.

There is a high probability that the Delta or Omicron variant may have been tainted during the genome sequencing process, he noted, as he urged virologists concerned to be more cautious and not to jump to a public conclusion that they have found a new variant.

He voiced his agreement with Dr. Thomas Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College in London, who explained that it is very likely that the finding has resulted from coinfections of the Delta and Omicron strains. Several other international scientists have also voiced their skepticism. World Health Organization (WHO) Covid expert Dr Krutika Kuppalli posted on Twitter the “Deltacron” strain is not real.

Dr. Peacock said contamination is pretty common when new variants are sequenced in labs, adding that, before a new variant is classified, the suspected new strain should be detected in several other labs first.

Leonitios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, claimed that his team has identified 25 “Deltacron” variant cases.

The results of the 25 cases have been sent to the GISAID international database, which tracks changes in the virus.  Currently, little is known about how contagious or deadly the strain is.