Researcher said he discovered a ‘deltacron’ variant? Other scientists not so sure

Health experts are doubting the news that a researcher in Cyprus has discovered a COVID-19 variant that combines the delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus.

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Bloomberg News reported Saturday that Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, named the strain he says he discovered “deltacron,” because of its omicron-like genetic features within the delta variant.

Kostrikis said he and his team found 25 cases of the mutation. The findings were sent to GISAID, an international database that tracks changes in the virus, according to Bloomberg.

In total, 10 of the mutations from omicron were found in the 25 samples taken in Cyprus, according to Kostrikis. Eleven of the samples came from people who were hospitalized due to the virus, while 14 came from the general population.

“We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail” against the two dominant strains, delta and omicron, Kostrikis said in an interview with Sigma TV Friday.

Kostrikis also said he believes omicron will overtake deltacron because omicron is so highly contagious.

The news came as the omicron variant continues to spread around the world. The U.S. reported 1,082,549 new cases on one day last week, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker.

Several researchers tweeted over the weekend that Kostrikis’ findings were not likely showing a new variant of the virus but a mistake in the laboratory.

Kostrikis said he stands by his findings.

Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, a COVID-19 researcher for the WHO, said on Twitter that the results reported by Kostrikis were likely due to a “lab contamination of Omicron fragments in a Delta specimen.”

Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, an infectious diseases expert at Emory University, tweeted that the information available about Kostrikis’ research indicated it was likely contamination of a sample as opposed to the two variants joining into a new version of the disease.

Titanji pointed out that “recombination” of two variants can happen and is not uncommon.

“Recombination can occur in coronaviruses. The enzyme that replicates their genome has a tendency to slip-off the RNA strand it is copying and then rejoining where it left off. With #delta and #omicron both in circulation, dual infection with both variants increases this concern.”

Read the full Bloomberg News story here.