Coronavirus Explained: What Are COVID Variants And Variants Of Concern?

Coronavirus Explained: What Are COVID Variants And Variants Of Concern?

According to a government study, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is dominant in India and is behind the second wave of COVID in the country
Coronavirus Explained: What Are COVID Variants And Variants Of Concern?Delta variant first found in India is one of the variants of global concern as per WHO
Highlights
  • A virus is bound to evolve and mutate the more it spreads
  • A mutation is a change in the genome or genetic sequence of a virus
  • Some mutations die out and some end up being more transmissible: Experts

New Delhi: Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19 disease among humans has evolved and mutated multiple times since it was first reported in China’s Wuhan in December, 2019. A mutation is a change in the genome or genetic sequence of a virus which results in a new strain of the virus. “This is a natural evolution and the virus is expected to change the more the virus circulates around”, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead. But why DO some variants end up becoming ‘variants of concern’? How are ‘variants of concern’ different from ‘variants of interest’? How does WHO classify a variant as a variant of concern?

Experts answer all the questions on coronavirus and its variants.

Also Read: Coronavirus Strain Found In India, B.1.617 Named “Delta Variant”: WHO

What Is A Mutation?

SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses share a genome that looks a little different from specimen to specimen. Each time a virus makes copies of itself, one or more of the letters in the genome can be written incorrectly. Coronaviruses are pretty good at proofreading, but mistakes still get through. This is how genetic mutations arise, and it’s all perfectly normal, explained Dr Sunil Jain, Head of emergency medicine at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre.

Dr Jain further said that if a mutation makes it more difficult for the virus to replicate — for instance, if it results in a physical change that hampers its ability to get inside a host cell — that virus will die out and take the mutation along with it. But, if a mutation gives the virus a competitive advantage, it will spread more quickly than its rivals. That’s how some variants die out and some become ‘variants of concern.’

Also Read: B.1.617 Variant Of SARS-CoV-2 Drove Surge In The COVID-19 Cases In Last 2 Months

Variants Of Interest

Variants of interest (VOI) have properties, have mutations that have been identified that need further study, said Dr Kerkhove. As per WHO, variant becomes a ‘variant of interest’ when it has been identified to cause community transmission or multiple COVID-19 cases or clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries. Apart from this, a variant is assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group.

As per WHO’s latest update on May 31, there are six variants of interest –
– Epsilon and Iota both first found in the USA;
– Zeta, first reported in Brazil;
– Eta which has been found in multiple countries;
– Theta, first documented in samples from the Philippines;
– Kappa, a variant found in India.

Also Read: Delta Variant 60 Per Cent More Transmissible, Reduces Vaccine Effect: UK Experts

Variants Of Concern

Variants of concern have demonstrated changes. For example, you may have increased transmissibility, there may be a change in disease presentation or severity, or there may be a change in our ability to control the virus with public health and social measures, or the use of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. So the recent variant of concern, the B.1.617, for example, has demonstrated increased transmissibility and this is why this has been classified as a variant of concern, explains Dr Kerkhove.

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta are the current four variants of concern. As per WHO, the Delta variant was first reported in India in October, 2020. As per the latest update from WHO, the Delta variant’s lineage B.1.617.2 is the only strain of concern at the moment. The UN health agency last month declared the entire strain a variant of concern but on June 1, it said only one of the sub-lineages deserved that label.

Also Read: Two Doses Of COVID Vaccine ‘Highly Effective’ In Reducing Hospitalisation From The Delta Variant: UK Analysis

Variants of High Consequence

A variant of high consequence has clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures (MCMs) have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants, states the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Possible attributes of a variant of high consequence include:
– demonstrated failure of diagnostics;
– evidence to suggest a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness;
– a disproportionately high number of vaccine breakthrough cases;
– more severe clinical disease and increased hospitalisations.

As per CDC, currently, there are no SARS-CoV-2 variants that have risen to the level of high consequence.

Also Read: Delta Plus, New COVID Variant Identified, Experts Say No Cause Of Concern For Now

What Can One Do For Protection Against Coronavirus Variants?

Dr Kerkhove says that we need to do everything that we can to prevent infections and reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, whether it’s a virus variant, a variant of interest or a variant of concern or not, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect us and it can spread between people.

It means take all of the measures that you can to reduce your exposure in the possibility of you getting infected. It means physical distancing, avoiding crowded spaces, spending more time outdoors than indoors. If you are indoors, make sure that there’s good ventilation. It’s about having clean hands and wearing a mask properly over your nose and your mouth, practising respiratory etiquette, being well informed. And no matter what you do know what your risk is and take steps to lower your risk. And lastly, when it’s your turn, get vaccinated, said Dr Kerkhove.

WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead also informed that multiple studies are underway to study the nature of multiple variants in terms of transmissibility, severity and impact on diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. The current evidence suggests that vaccines and other control and diagnostics measures do work against the variants.

Also Read: Delta Plus Variant Of COVID-19 Is Not Yet ‘Variant Of Concern’, Nullifies Monoclonal Antibody Use: Government

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

19,89,21,889Cases
6,44,02,340Active
13,02,83,678Recovered
42,35,871Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 194 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 19,89,21,889 and 42,35,871 have died; 6,44,02,340 are active cases and 13,02,83,678 have recovered as on August 3, 2021 at 3:55 am.

India

3,17,26,507 30,549Cases
4,04,9588,760Active
3,08,96,354 38,887Recovered
4,25,195 422Deaths
In India, there are 3,17,26,507 confirmed cases including 4,25,195 deaths. The number of active cases is 4,04,958 and 3,08,96,354 have recovered as on August 3, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

63,15,063 4,869

78,700 3,650

61,03,325 8,429

1,33,038 90

Kerala

34,25,473 13,984

1,65,834 2,057

32,42,684 15,923

16,955 118

Karnataka

29,08,284 1,285

24,045 123

28,47,627 1,383

36,612 25

Tamil Nadu

25,63,544 1,957

20,385 139

25,09,029 2,068

34,130 28

Andhra Pradesh

19,70,008 1,546

20,582 437

19,36,016 1,968

13,410 15

Uttar Pradesh

17,08,500 24

646 18

16,85,091 42

22,763

West Bengal

15,29,295 575

10,803 171

15,00,331 734

18,161 12

Delhi

14,36,401 51

538 44

14,10,809 95

25,054

Chhattisgarh

10,02,458 236

1,918 1

9,87,012 234

13,528 3

Odisha

9,79,737 1,032

13,318 820

9,60,386 1,785

6,033 67

Rajasthan

9,53,704 16

241 9

9,44,509 25

8,954

Gujarat

8,24,922 22

251 3

8,14,595 25

10,076

Madhya Pradesh

7,91,862 17

132 7

7,81,217 10

10,513

Haryana

7,69,956 14

703 12

7,59,614 25

9,639 1

Bihar

7,24,917 37

401 34

7,14,872 71

9,644

Telangana

6,45,997 591

8,819 54

6,33,371 643

3,807 2

Punjab

5,99,162 32

473 31

5,82,395 63

16,294

Assam

5,68,257 1,275

12,429 213

5,50,534 1,469

5,294 19

Jharkhand

3,47,223 23

239 15

3,41,855 38

5,129

Uttarakhand

3,42,198 37

574 35

3,34,261 71

7,363 1

Jammu And Kashmir

3,21,725 118

1,254 43

3,16,090 73

4,381 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,06,369 208

1,304 75

2,01,543 132

3,522 1

Goa

1,71,295 90

1,027 16

1,67,118 72

3,150 2

Puducherry

1,21,059 54

944 38

1,18,320 92

1,795

Manipur

99,872 541

9,814 591

88,480 1,120

1,578 12

Tripura

79,026 304

3,104 12

75,167 292

755

Meghalaya

65,939 350

5,843 200

58,987 537

1,109 13

Chandigarh

61,960 6

33 3

61,116 3

811

Arunachal Pradesh

48,565 305

3,508 167

44,823 469

234 3

Mizoram

40,111 748

12,316 127

27,642 618

153 3

Nagaland

28,004 59

1,300 44

26,130 99

574 4

Sikkim

26,880 126

3,323 131

23,211 256

346 1

Ladakh

20,345 5

57 0

20,081 5

207

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,650

15 9

10,631 9

4

Lakshadweep

10,207 12

79 4

10,078 8

50

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,539

6 1

7,404 1

129

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