Ever since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 viruses have taken forms. There is a constant change among viruses due to mutation and when there are one or more mutations for a virus, it is known as a variant. The COVID-19 too caused many variants throughout the world. The genetic material of a virus while entering the cells of your body start producing similar material on its own and that may infect the other cells as well. However, if any error takes place during the process, it causes mutation. The significant mutations of the COVID-19 are classified into three types.
- The Variant of Interest
- The Variant of Concern
- The Variant of High Consequence.
Stuart Campbell Ray who is Professor at Johns Hopkins University, says that the nature of RNA viruses evolve and change regularly. The variants of viruses occur when there is a change — or mutation — to the virus’s genes. While Robert Cyril Bollinger who is also a professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University says that RNA viruses change or mutate considerably over time. He further explains this by saying that the flu type viruses usually and that is why it is recommended to get the flu vaccine every year.
Changes in the virus that cause COVID-19 are being studied by scientists throughout the world. The research makes researchers able to understand that how fast certain variants of COVID-19 spread than others, how they might affect your health, and how different vaccines prove effective against them.
Covid-19 Variant Nomenclature
As far as the names of different variants of COVID-19 are concerned, the World Health Organization has decided to name the variants on the patterns of Greek alphabets. The main aim of this naming system is to make things easy to understand and prevent any misreporting. Moreover, the system helps to reduce the discriminatory labels that people often use when they refer to variants by their places of origin.
|Variant||Originated from||Month and year||Countries affected||Symptoms|
|Alpha Variant||United Kingdom||September 2020||178 countries such as the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Wales, Ireland, United States.||Chills, loss of appetite, headache and Muscle aches.|
|Beta Variant||South Africa||May 2020||123 countries including the United States||50% more transmissible, Severe infections.|
|Gamma Variant||Brazil||November 2020||75 countries including Canada, Italy, United States||Body aches, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, Loss of taste or smell.|
|Delta Variant||India||December 2020||100 countries including Singapore, France, Spain, UK, USA||Persistent cough, headache, Fever and sore throat. Headache, sore throat, Runny nose and fever seem to be more common.|
|Delta Plus Variant||India||2020||Spread across many states including Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra||Skin rash, change in the color of the toes, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of smell, diarrhea, headache, or runny nose, etc.|
|Epsilon||Los Angeles, California||February 2021||USA ( de-escalated)||Conjunctivitis, headache, Loss of taste or smell.|
|Omicron||Botswana, South Africa||November 2021||57 countries||Fever, cough, tiredness, loss of taste or smell.|
- Alpha : It was reported from the UK in late 2020 and because of the spike protein mutations of the Alpha SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.17) variant, the virus attaches to the host cells easily. The variant showed it footprints in all the 50 states of the United States of America and has been identified in above 178 countries of the world.
- Beta : The SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant (B.1.351) originated from South Africa in December 2020 and the spike protein mutations enable the variant to attach firmly with the human cells. The variant showed reduced protection to antibody treatment. Along with 35 US states, the SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant was found in about 123 countries of the world.
- Gamma : Originated from Brazil in October 2020, the Gamma SARS-CoV-2 (P.1) variant is quite dominant in South America. The mutations of the variant enable the virus to attach firmly to the host cells and dodge some antibodies. However, the Gamma variant has been found in 29 US states and 75 countries throughout the world.
- Delta : The SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.617.2) Delta variant originated from the Vidarbha region of the Indian state of Maharashtra in December 2020. Among all other variants, the Delta variant is considered to be fast-growing in the United States as it outpaces all other variants. With “eek mutation” on its spike protein, the Delta variant doges certain antibodies and was responsible for the spectacular increase of COVID-19 cases between February 2021 to June 2021. Moreover, the Delta variant has been reported in more than 100 countries of the world.
- Epsilon : This variant was found in February 2021 and is also known as the California variant as it was found in more than half of samples from Los Angeles. As compared to Alpha and Beta variants, the Epsilon variant is considered more contagious and is specifically outperformed by the Alpha variant. The variant has two lineages: B.1.427 and B.1.429. However, the variant was downscaled as a Variant of Concern
- Omicron : The SARS- CoV B1.1.529 Omicron variant was found in South Africa on November 21, 2021, and was designated as the Variant of Concern (VoC) on Nov 26, 2021. Early reports indicate that the variant has about 32 unprecedented mutations on its spike protein that is more than the amount of the Delta variant. The reproduction rate of the Omicron variant is 2 which means that an infected person transmits it to two other persons. Moreover, previous COVID-19 infected persons are at high risk of reinfection with Omicron. The variant is now found in more than 57 countries of the world.