JUN 05, 2021 7:33 AM PDT

Newly-Named Coronavirus Variant Causes Concern

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to create a new naming system for coronavirus variants for several reasons. The names will now be based on the Greek alphabet. A chart has been developed to educate people about which variants have what names, and when they emerged. WHO has grouped the variants into two categories: Variants of Concern, which have either increased the virulence or transmissibility of the virus and disrupted public health measures like diagnostics or treatment, while the Variants of Interest category includes variants that have caused community transmission but haven't necessarily been harder to contain. The table regarding Variants of Concern is recapitulated below.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. / Credit: NIAID

Hopefully, this will help clear up confusion about the variants. Using their genomic designations can be cumbersome and especially confusing to people that aren't used to that kind of nomenclature.

“It is a lot easier for a radio newsreader to say ‘Delta’ than 'bee one six one seven two,'” Jeffrey Barrett, a statistical geneticist who leads SARS-CoV-2-sequencing efforts at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK told Nature. “So I’m willing to give it a try to help it take off.”

While geographic descriptors are not traditionally controversial, in the modern world we know that they can lead to stigmatization, stereotypes, and other social problems. There is even some evidence that countries that discover new variants within their borders are reluctant to share the information because of the potential fallout.

“I can understand why people just call it ‘the South African variant’ — they don’t mean anything by it,” Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist at the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa commented to Nature. “The problem is, if we allow it to continue, there are people who have an agenda and will use it.”

The Delta variant, first identified in India, now seems to be posing a major problem for several countries where it's been detected. Vietnam, for example, is now grappling with its most serious COVID outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and the delta variant is also being blamed for a sharp uptick of cases in England.

A recent study suggested that only one dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine was 17 percent less effective against the Delta variant compared to Alpha (B.1.1.7) based on lab and real-world studies. But, two doses still seemed to provide good protection against the Delta variant.

As the virus continues to spread, it will have more chances to mutate into more variants, highlighting the need to vaccination campaigns worldwide.

Sources: WHO, Nature

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 16, 2021
Technology
Online App Increases Health Literacy and Reduces Vaccine Hesitancy in Incarcerated Women
JUN 16, 2021
Online App Increases Health Literacy and Reduces Vaccine Hesitancy in Incarcerated Women
Many women released from prison are returning to communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, communities that also fa ...
JUL 13, 2021
Immunology
A Moment of COVID, A Lifetime of Immune Protection?
JUL 13, 2021
A Moment of COVID, A Lifetime of Immune Protection?
Does getting vaccinated, or having recovered from COVID, provide life-long protection against the coronavirus? Most like ...
JUL 20, 2021
Immunology
Coronavirus Variants No Match Against Newly-Discovered Antibody
JUL 20, 2021
Coronavirus Variants No Match Against Newly-Discovered Antibody
Over 940 million people around the world have been fully vaccinated. But, as the World Health Organization warns, t ...
JUL 20, 2021
Coronavirus
Pregnant and lactating people can pass COVID-19 antibodies from the vaccine
JUL 20, 2021
Pregnant and lactating people can pass COVID-19 antibodies from the vaccine
New research found that both pregnant and lactating people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine can pass antibodies to their ...
SEP 12, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
What Happens When Two Viruses Infect the Same Cell?
SEP 12, 2021
What Happens When Two Viruses Infect the Same Cell?
Pathgenic microbes that infect cells can affect each other. It's not unusual for people with viral respiratory infection ...
SEP 24, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
WHO Recommends Antibody Treatment for High Risk COVID-19 Patients
SEP 24, 2021
WHO Recommends Antibody Treatment for High Risk COVID-19 Patients
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a combination of two antibody treatments for patients at risk of adv ...
Loading Comments...