Cyprus scientist claims to discover ‘Deltacron’, a new COVID variant that contain both Delta & Omicron characteristics

Source: PBS, Imperial College London

Just when the world thinks that we have enough on our plate to deal with in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the medical fraternity are now investigating into yet another potential new COVID-19 mutation. Discovered by scientist in Cypress, this new mutation has been dubbed as ‘Deltacron’.

‘Deltacron’ discovered by Cyprus scientists

Found by Leonidios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, and his team, 25 instances of infection by this new variant have already been detected in patients. The name is an amalgamation of both the Delta and Omicron variants that are now spreading globally, as this new strain contains omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes.

A scientist conducting genomic sequencing.

Current data indicates that the rate of infection is higher among patients who have already been hospitalised due to COVID-19, as opposed to those who have not according to Bloomberg. 

“There are currently omicron and delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two,” he said.

All sequences from the 25 ‘deltacron’ cases have since been submitted to the GISAID database, which provides an open-sourced genomic data repository for influenza viruses and the current coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

Members of the medical community suggest it may be a result of lab contamination

With that being said however, those from within the medical community have raised doubts as to the veracity of Leonidios’ findings, and have instead asserted that this new ‘deltacron’ variant may have been the product of laboratory contamination.

Lab contaminations are not unheard of, and can occur when any new variants (in this case, Omicron) are screened through sequencing processes and are exposed to very small amounts of contaminants.

This has further been echoed by American infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, who is also the current technical lead for COVID-19 with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Leonidios stands by his findings 

However, Leonidios has continued to stand by his findings and in a letter addressed to Bloomberg on Sunday (9th January 2022), claims that the mutations found in the ‘deltacron’ variant are indicative of an ‘evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event’.  Recombination in this case refers to the exchange of genetic material between two related viruses during the coinfection of a host cell.

Scientists conducting genomic sequencing.
Source: PBS

In addition to this, he goes on to mention that the ‘deltacron’ samples have been processed through multiple sequencing procedures, and at least one sequence that was processed in Israel from a global database has also exhibited characteristics of ‘deltacron’.

While this new development may raise some concerns, Leonidios has said that only time will tell in the future if this strain will prove to become more pathological or more contagious, or if it will prevail against the current dominant Omicron and Delta strains, the former which emerged only during the later part of 2021 in South Africa.

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Also read: Khairy: Malaysia has recorded 245 Omicron cases, 12 which are locally transmitted

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