As Israel battles the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire across the country, health officials in Cyprus have identified a new variant, this one dubbed “Deltacron.”
The new variant has Omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes, according to Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology, who was quoted by NDTV.
Kostrikis said in an interview with Signa TV on Friday that the new variant also contains some of the mutations from the Omicron variant on its spike protein.
“There are currently Omicron and Delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two,” he said, adding that the relative frequency of the combined infection is higher among hospitalized COVID-19 patients than among non-hospitalized patients.
Other scientists speculate that the findings are the result of laboratory contamination, an assertion vigorously denied by Kostrikis, who told Bloomberg News in an emailed statement that his findings “indicate an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event.”
The difference between infections rates seen in hospitalized patients compared to those who were not hospitalized, he said, rules out the contamination hypothesis.
In addition, he said, the samples were processed in multiple sequencing procedures in more than one country — including Israel, where at least one sequence deposited in a global database exhibits genetic characteristics of Deltacron.
“These findings refute the undocumented statements that Deltacron is a result of a technical error,” the scientist said.
So far, 25 people in the island nation have been diagnosed with the new Deltacron variant.
The sequences of the 25 Deltacron cases were sent on January 7 to GISAID, the international database that tracks changes in the virus.
IHU Variant Identified in France Not Yet a Concern for WHO
Another coronavirus variant that made headlines a week ago, IHU or B.1.640.2, is not considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a variant of interest or for that matter, a variant of concern, despite its 46 mutations and 37 deletions – 23 of which were detected on the spike protein, the part of the virus that penetrates cells and causes infection.
Abdi Mahmud, a COVID incident manager with the WHO told reporters on January 4 that the agency has known about IHU since last November, but that it has not spread widely since then.
The “French variant” as it has been dubbed by some, was first detected in a vaccinated adults who had recently returned to France from Cameroon, Africa.
Thus far, a total of just 20 cases of the variant have been identified, all of them from the same area of France. All were sequenced and uploaded to the GISAID database.
For comparison, more than 120,000 Omicron sequences have been uploaded to the GISAID database since mid-November.
Reminder: Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, headache, cough and/or sore throat. Loss of taste and/or smell are among the symptoms in some cases.