A strain of Covid-19 that combines delta and omicron was found in Cyprus, according to Leondios Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology.
“There are 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 Friday. The discovery was named “deltacron” due to the identification of omicron-like genetic signatures within the delta genomes, he said.
Kostrikis and his team have identified 25 such cases and the statistical analysis shows that the relative frequency of the combined infection is higher among patients hospitalized due to Covid-19 as compared to non-hospitalized patients. The sequences of the 25 deltacron cases were sent to GISAID, the international database that tracks changes in the virus, on Jan. 7.
“We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail” over delta and omicron, he said. But his personal view is that this strain will also be displaced by the highly contagious omicron variant.
Health expert urges caution after blood-testing firm claims ‘pandemic is over’ in Alberta hamlet
A private blood-testing company’s claim that the COVID-19 “pandemic is over” in a northern Alberta community could lull residents into a false sense of security, says an infectious diseases expert.
More than 1,200 people in the hamlet of La Crete, 700 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, paid $100 each in mid-December to have their blood tested for antibodies by Ichor Blood Services, a private lab specimen collection company based in Calgary.
The tests found antibodies in most of the 991 unvaccinated individuals who were tested.
Ichor CEO Mike Kuzmickas said he believes the results show La Crete is relatively safe from COVID-19.
“The pandemic is over in La Crete; they have reached herd immunity,” Kuzmickas told CBC News in an email last month.
Most unvaccinated Albertans have no immunity
Albertans don’t generally have access to serology testing for COVID-19 antibodies through their physicians.
However, the province is using serology testing to assess how many Albertans have been exposed to COVID-19, said Grady Semmens, a spokesperson for Alberta Precision Laboratories.
In some cases, data is used to inform medical treatment decisions, but the test must be ordered by a physician and approved by provincial virology experts.
“At this time, there is a lack of evidence on whether having antibodies to COVID-19 means you are protected against reinfection with COVID-19 and if so, how long that protection would last,” Semmens said in an email.
“This is especially true with newer strains of the virus such as the Omicron variant.”
Immunized people are less likely to be seriously ill or be hospitalized than those who are unvaccinated, and Kuzmickas’s belief about the unvaccinated population in the La Crete area having immunity doesn’t align with the province’s own serology testing.
During its last regular survey of blood samples in early October, Alberta Health found that about 40 per cent of those who were not vaccinated had detectable antibodies, which means the majority of unimmunized Albertans had no evidence of an immune response from past infection, spokesperson Christa Jubinville said in an email.
“The spread of the Omicron variant is putting our health-care system at risk, and we need to both maximize vaccine coverage and follow public health measures to protect our communities,” Jubinville said.
She said infection plus vaccination provides much better protection than infection alone.
“With Omicron, there is an increased risk of re-infection in those who have previously had COVID, meaning it is even more important to be vaccinated, including after infection.”
Still, Kuzmickas thinks it’s time for provincial officials to rethink public health restrictions and to factor immunity through infection into requirements for proof of immunization.
“It’s been two years. There needs to be a different approach to how to get out of this pandemic because what we’re doing is a repeating cycle that’s not working,” he said.
Kuzmickas said that in the wake of the La Crete chamber sharing test results, half a dozen other municipalities have reached out to Ichor about group testing.
Saxinger recommends caution for any community considering setting up serology testing for COVID-19 antibodies.
“I don’t think they should be spending money on that until they get an idea of what those numbers actually mean,” she said. “I think it might actually create a false sense of security, which may not be the best idea right now.”