Amid an ongoing Omicron menace, Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology confirmed the detection of a new Covid-19 strain ‘Deltacron’ that combines delta and omicron in Cyprus.
In an interview with Sigma TV Friday, the professor confirmed the discovery of a new strain of the covid variant having omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes. “There are currently omicron and delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two,” Kostrikis said in an interview.
What Do We Know of Deltacron So Far?
25 cases of Deltacron have been found so far. 10 of the mutations from Omicron were found in the 25 samples taken in Cyprus. Eleven of the samples came from people who were hospitalized due to the virus, while 14 came from the general population, reported Jerusalem Post citing Cyprus Mail.
Talking to the media, Kostrikis said Deltacron infection is higher among patients hospitalized for Covid-19 than among non-hospitalized patients, which rules out the contamination hypothesis. “What’s more, the samples were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country. And at least one sequence from Israel deposited in a global database exhibits genetic characteristics of Deltacron,” he said.
She however added that since the frequency of the mutation among hospitalized patients was higher and could point to a correlation between the new variant and hospitalizations. “We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail” over delta and omicron, he said. But his personal view is that this strain will also be displaced by the highly contagious omicron variant.
At a time when the world is in the grip of Omicron, the discovery of another variant of Covid has led to fresh apprehension among scientists around the world. Allaying the fears, Cyprus’s Health Minister Michalis Hadjipandelas however said on Saturday that the new Covid-19 variant was not something to worry about at the moment
Meanwhile, as Deltacron set the social media abuzz, many experts opined that it is not a real variant. Virologist Tom Peacock said on social media that Deltacron may not be an actual variant, but possibly a result of contamination. “So when new variants come through sequencing lab, contamination isn’t that uncommon (very very tiny volumes of liquid can cause this) – just usually these fairly clearly contaminated sequences are not reported by major media outlets,” he explained.
The Cyprus scientist, however, defended the finding. In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, he said that the cases he has identified indicate “an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event”.
“These findings refute the undocumented statements that deltacron is a result of a technical error,” Kostrikis said.
However, till now the scientific name of the new Covid-19 variant has not been announced.