Deltacron: Cyprus confirms COVID-19 infections of combined Delta-Omicron variant
In Cyprus, a coronavirus strain combining the Delta and Omicron variants was discovered, said Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus. The new strain has been termed "Deltacron" because of the detection of Omicron-like genetic markers within the Delta genomes. Kostrikis said that his team has identified 25 such COVID-19 cases.
Why does it matter?
- The Deltacron discovery comes just a few days after France announced a new coronavirus variant 'IHU,' even as the world is witnessing a surge in infections due to Omicron.
- Omicron is a highly mutated and more contagious variant that has been replacing Delta as the dominant strain.
- The new variant flooded social media and many experts claim it is not a "real variant."
What were Kostrikis' findings?
The statistical analysis revealed that the relative prevalence of the 'Deltacron' co-infection is higher among COVID-19-hospitalized patients than among non-hospitalized patients. The sequences of the 25 samples were sent to GISAID, an international database that records virus alterations. Kostrikis said it will be seen whether the variant is more contagious and will dominate over Delta and Omicron.
Experts say Deltacron not a 'true variant'
Deltacron may not be a true variant, but rather a product of contamination, according to virologist Tom Peacock. He said that contamination is not uncommon in sequencing labs. Deltacron was dubbed a 'scariant' by physician-scientist Eric Topol rather than a variant. "New subtype of 'scariant' that isn't even a real variant but scares a lot of people, unnecessarily," he tweeted.
Kostrikis defends his study
The samples show that these mutations were acquired by an ancestral strain under evolutionary pressure, rather than as a result of a single recombination event, Kostrikis told Bloomberg. The samples were sequenced numerous times in more than one country, he said. "These findings refute the undocumented statements that Deltacron is a result of a technical error," said Kostrikis.
COVID-19 cases around the world
Since the pandemic began, over 308 million COVID-19 cases have been documented worldwide, as per data collected by Worldometer. The United States (61 million) have reported the highest number of cases, followed by India (35 million) and Brazil (22 million). Approximately 5.5 million people died globally. Currently, there are around 42 million active cases in the world, including 94,053 in serious or critical conditions.