A new strain of the COVID-19 virus has been discovered, one that has both the traits of Delta and Omicron and has aptly (unofficially) been called “Deltacron”. The variant was discovered in Cyprus, according to Professor Leondios Kostrikis, head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology at the University of Cyprus.
Kostrikis said in an interview that his team had found co-infections that were a combination of two dominant strains, naming the discovery Deltacron due to the identification of Omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes.
The team has so far identified 25 cases of the strain and found that the combined infection was more prevalent in hospitalised COVID-19 patients, compared to non-hospitalised patients. The discovery has been sent to GISAID, the international database that tracks changes in the virus, on 7 January.
The Delta variant was discovered in May of last year, and quickly become the dominant strain globally. However, the Omicron variant was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 24 November, and was quickly designated as a Variant of Concern due to its higher transmissibility.
The current situation is that, within less than two months, Omicron is already on track to dethrone Delta as the dominant variant, with that already being the case in certain countries such as the UK and the US. Kostrikis said, in his personal opinion, the Deltacron strain will be overshadowed by the highly contagious Omicron.
Small update: the Cypriot ‘Deltacron’ sequences reported by several large media outlets look to be quite clearly contamination – they do not cluster on a phylogenetic tree and have a whole Artic primer sequencing amplicon of Omicron in an otherwise Delta backbone.
— Tom Peacock (@PeacockFlu) January 8, 2022
Interestingly, Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London’s Department of Infectious Disease, refutes the discovery. Peacock theorises that instead of a new variant, the findings actually come from contamination in the sequencing lab.
In response, Kostrikis doubled down on the findings being a new strain, saying that the higher frequency amongst hospitalised patients, as well as the fact that the samples were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country, rules out the contamination hypothesis. Cypriot Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela clarified that the new variant is not of concern, and more details will be given later this week.
(Source: Bloomberg )
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