A team of scientists in Cyprus has identified a strain of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus that reportedly combines many of the characteristics of the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants, according to a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus.
Leondios Kostrikis, who’s also head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology at the university, told Cyprus TV network Sigma TV on Jan. 7 that the discovery was named “Deltacron” because of the identification of Omicron-like genetic signatures within Delta genomes.
“There are currently Omicron and Delta co-infections, and we found this strain that is a combination of these two,” Kostrikis said in the interview, Bloomberg reported.
Kostrikis and his team have identified 25 such cases, according to the report. Statistical analysis shows that individuals who were previously hospitalized with COVID-19 are more likely to be reinfected with the new variant than those who haven’t. Kostrikis said it wasn’t yet known exactly how infectious or pathological the newly discovered combined strain is.
The researchers sent their findings to GISAID, an international database that tracks viruses, on Jan. 7, according to Bloomberg.
“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. The professor said he personally believes that the highly-transmissible Omicron variant will also overtake Deltacron.
However, World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 expert Dr. Krutika Kuppalli said she believes that the new variant is “not real” and is “likely due to sequencing artifact [lab contamination of Omicron sequence fragments in a Delta specimen].”
“Let’s not merge of names of infectious diseases and leave it to celebrity couples,” Kuppalli wrote on Twitter.
Kostrikis didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
In December 2021, researchers at Méditerranée Infection University Hospital Institute discovered another variant of COVID-19 with a large number of mutations.
In a study published Dec. 29, 2021, researchers wrote that the variant, known as B.1.640.2 or colloquially as “IHU,” was found in 12 people living in the same area of southeastern France in 2021 who tested positive for COVID-19.
The first identified case in the group was a vaccinated male adult who had returned from travel to Cameroon three days before in mid-November and had begun to develop mild respiratory symptoms the day before diagnosis. Genome sequencing was carried out and revealed an atypical combination of mutations.
An analysis of the variant revealed that it has 46 mutations along with 37 deletions to its genome.
However, scientists are urging people not to panic, with Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, noting that there had been no new sequences of B.1.640.2 reported before Christmas.
“This virus has had a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialized (as far as we can tell at least …),” Peacock wrote on Twitter.
As of the week that ended on Jan. 1, the Omicron variant accounted for 95.4 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yet researchers at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital believe that the Omicron variant outbreak that’s currently spreading across the globe may in fact signal the end of the acute pandemic phase of COVID-19, with the endemic phase following.
“The wave increased at a faster rate than previous waves, completely displacing the Delta variant within weeks and began its decline in both cases and hospital admissions in the fifth week following its commencement,” researchers wrote in their study, which was published in December 2021.
They noted that there are “clear signs that case and admission rates in South Africa may decline further over the next few weeks.”
“If this pattern continues and is repeated globally, we are likely to see a complete decoupling of case and death rates suggesting that Omicron may be a harbinger of the end of the epidemic phase of the COVID pandemic ushering in its endemic phase,” the researchers wrote.