What Is 'Deltacron'? Scientist Says COVID Discovery Is New Strain

A researcher in Cyprus has reportedly discovered a new strain of the coronavirus that combines the Delta and Omicron variants. But some experts say the cases are more likely to be the result of lab contamination or co-infections of Delta and Omicron.

Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, said he dubbed the strain "Deltacron" because of Omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Kostrikis and his team of researchers have reportedly identified 25 such cases.

"There ate currently Omicron and Delta co-infections and we found this strain that is a combination of these two," Kostrikis said in an interview with Sigma TV on Friday.

"We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious" than Delta and Omicron, Kostrikis said, but added that he believes the highly contagious Omicron variant will remain the dominant strain.

Kostrikis has been contacted for additional comment.

The researchers have sent their findings to GISAID, a data-sharing hub that tracks viruses, according to Bloomberg.

Some experts have suggested the cases are more likely to be from lab contamination or co-infections of Delta and Omicron.

Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College's Department of Infectious Disease, said on Twitter: "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."

In another tweet, Peacock explained that contamination is common when new variants are sequenced in labs.

"In this case potentially mixing up small amounts of RNA samples/swab material in the sequencing labs - which then makes it look like the virus has mixed in the real world (when it hasnt) - it happens quite commonly because tiny volumes of liquid can cause this issue...," he wrote.

Late last month, Peacock also explained that any alleged new strains should be detected in multiple labs before being classified.

He also expressed doubt about the timing because "true recombinants" do not tend to appear until a few weeks or months after there's been substantial co-circulation of multiple variants.

"We're only a couple of weeks into Omicron - I really doubt there are any [prevalent] recombinants yet...," he wrote on December 28.

Peacock also noted that "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)."

A clinical support technician extracts viruses
File photo. A clinical support technician extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. Jane Barlow/WPA Pool/Getty Images