Coronavirus: ‘Deltacron’ discovery not a mistake, says scientist who claims he found new variant
- Cypriot scientist Leonidos Kostrikis said the new strain did not emerge from a ‘single recombination event’ but as a result of ‘evolutionary pressure’
- He says the new strain combines characteristics of Delta and Omicron. Other scientists have speculated that the findings are a result of lab contamination
Other scientists have speculated that Leonidos Kostrikis’s findings are a result of laboratory contamination. But he said in an emailed statement on Sunday that the cases he has identified “indicate an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event”.
Deltacron infection is higher among patients hospitalised for Covid-19 than among non-hospitalised patients, so that rules out the contamination hypothesis, said Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology.
“These findings refute the undocumented statements that Deltacron is a result of a technical error,” Kostrikis said.
Viral genes determine the forms of proteins that perform a number of specific tasks. Omicron and Delta each have mutations in the spike protein that affect their ability to enter human cells, with Omicron becoming more infectious as a result.
Recombinant forms of viruses can arise when there are multiple variants of a pathogen circulating, said Nick Loman, a microbial genomics professor at England’s University of Birmingham who studies the coronavirus.
While a recombinant form of Delta and Omicron would not be a complete surprise, the finding from Cyprus is more likely a “technical artefact” that arose in the process of sequencing the viral genome, Loman said.
Cypriot Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela said on Sunday that the new variant isn’t of concern, and more details will be given at a news conference this week, the O Phileleftheros newspaper reported.