(KXAN) — A reported new variant of COVID-19 discovered by a Cyprus researcher is said to combine both delta and omicron variants — unofficially dubbed “deltacron.”
Bloomberg News reported Saturday that Leondios Kostrikis, biological sciences professor at the University of Cyprus, discovered omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes.
Kostrikis and his team say they’ve found 25 similar cases. On Friday, the researcher told the Cyprus Sigma TV network, “we will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious,” but added he believes omicron would ultimately remain the dominant strain.
But some experts doubt the alleged new variant — pointing to evidence it’s more likely to be lab contamination between delta and omicron. Additionally, as Dr. Tom Peacock, virologist at Imperial Department of Infectious Disease in Britain explains, it’s very likely these could be coinfections of the two strains.
“Small update,” Peacock tweeted Saturday, “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.”
Peacock further explained that contamination is pretty common when new variants are sequenced in labs. He says contamination can happen even with “very, very tiny volumes of fluid.”
Before a new variant is classified, he says the alleged strain should be detected in several other labs first.
Back in November, Peacock warned of the then-unnamed omicron variant ahead of its classification and swift spread, telling the Guardian an “incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern.”
Peacock says he also doubts the timing of so-called “deltacron,” as “recombinants” don’t generally appear until weeks or months of two strains circulating around each other. He adds that while recombinants will be found eventually, it’s “almost definitely” contamination in this case.
“Finally it’s worth adding,” Peacock writes, “much of what we understand about what makes delta more transmissible/infectious, omicron already possess — it’s currently unclear to me what omicron could have to gain from delta (with what we currently know at least).”
Meanwhile, Cyprus researchers have sent their findings to GISAID, a global virus database.
The U.S. currently averages over 600,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. It’s a 72% increase from the week before and a record number for the entire pandemic.