Cyprus scientists have found 25 cases of a COVID strain, which is a combination of Delta and Omicron, calling it “Deltacron,” according to multiple sources.
Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, and his team discovered the new strain, according to Bloomberg.
Kostrikis, who is the head of the laboratory of biotechnology and molecular virology, said, “There are currently Omicron and Delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two. The discovery was named “Deltacron” due to the identification of Omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes.”
The team found that the relative frequency of the combined infection (Deltacron) is higher among hospitalized COVID patients compared to non-hospitalized patients.
“We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail over Delta and Omicron,” Kostrikis said.
Other researchers have speculated that Kostrikis’ findings are a result of laboratory contamination. However, Kostrikis said in an email that the cases he and his team have identified “indicate an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event.”
“Deltacron infection is higher among patients hospitalized for COVID than among non-hospitalized patients, so that rules out the contamination hypothesis,” he explained.
GISAID, a Germany-based international database that tracks COVID developments told the Cyprus Mail that it is “quite possible” that the new strain has not been found elsewhere.
In December 2021, Paul Burton, Chief Medical Officer at Moderna, told the U.K.’s House of Commons that the co-existence of Delta and Omicron increased the chances of a new variant as a result of them trading genes, according to the Daily Mail UK.
The New York Times said that such recombination is common in coronaviruses and several studies have suggested recombination could cause the virus to change in “dangerous ways,” but could help researchers develop drugs to treat the virus, according to Forbes.
Kostrikis said 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.
Michael Hadjipantela, Minister of Health at Cyprus Government, said Deltacron is not of concern, adding that more details will be released this week. The story first appeared on Bloomberg