Approximately 25 cases of a suspected new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been discovered in Cyprus, with researchers saying the new strain is a combined version of the Delta and Omicron strains of Covid-19.
"There are currently omicron and delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two," said Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology, in an interview with Sigma TV Friday. The discovery was named "deltacron" due to the identification of omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes, he said
Analysis done by Kostikis and his team have found that the relative frequency of Deltacron may be higher in patients who have been hospitalised with combined infections than those who have not been hospitalized although he personally expects the new strain to be replaced by the fast-moving and infectious Omicron variant.
Some scientists have disputed the findings of Kostikis and his team, saying that Deltacron cannot be a new strain as it cannot be traced and plotted on the phylogenetic map of Covid-19 that is used to track new strains.
"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," Virologist Tom Peacock said on social media.
"...True recombinants don't tend to appear until a few weeks/months after there's been substantial co-circulation - we're only a couple of weeks into Omicron - I really doubt there are any prevalent recombinants yet," Peacock said, dismissing the notion that Dekta and Omicron could have exchanged genetic material to make a new strain.
The sequences of the 25 deltacron cases were sent to GISAID, the international database that tracks changes in the virus, on Jan. 7. "We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail" over Delta and Omicron, Kostikis said.