Covid-19: is a “Deltacron” variant really possible?

HEALTH CRISIS – Cypriot scientists have reportedly discovered a few cases of “Deltacron”, a fusion between the Omicron and Delta variants of Covid-19. But virologists remain (very) skeptical.

Can the Omicron and Delta variants, the two predominant strains in the world, merge? In any case, this is the warning issued in recent days by Cypriot scientists. According to Dr. Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biology at the University of Cyprus, “there are currently people infected with both Omicron and Delta, and we have discovered a strain that combines the two”, he said on Friday, estimating at 25 the number of patients who tested positive for this “Deltacron”.

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But according to virologist Tom Peacock, of Imperial College London, this new strain would not be one. “There is no signal”, he said on Twitter. “True recombinants only tend to appear a few months after substantial co-circulation.”

Same story for Professor Arnaud Fontanet, member of the Scientific Council. “It’s probably a contamination error”, he said this Monday morning on BFMTV, wishing “dismiss” this assumption.

‘Extremely infrequent’ recombinations in coronaviruses

In fact, two variants can actually combine. “In virology, recombination between coronavirus strains is possible”, explains to LCI Professor Daniel Dunia, director of virology research at the CNRS at the Infinity Institute. “But to say that there has been recombination, you need basic biology studies, which, in my opinion, could not be done in this time frame. We will therefore have to wait for more solid scientific studies. “

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However, a recombination of variants, as suggested by Cypriot scientists with “Deltacron”, remains “extremely infrequent” with coronaviruses, continues Professor Dunia. “This is not the major phenomenon of the emergence of variants”, he recalls. “The replication of the coronavirus is extremely active, the virus multiplies very quickly. With errors, it accumulates mutations constantly. When some give it an advantage, then it becomes dominant.”

Should we therefore rule out the hypothesis of a fusion of variants? “It takes distrust”, replies the director of research in virology. “No one believes it”, slice another virologist, who rather evokes “a sequencing artifact”.

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