Friday 22 October 2021
COVID-19 Variants Classifications and Definitions
July 7, 2021 | By - Abha Sharma

COVID-19 Variants Classifications and Definitions

COVID-19 has brought collective panic and destruction to the world since it was first detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Since then, it has infected over 170 million people across the globe and caused over 4 million deaths.

In its wake, the world saw countless lockdowns along with the medical fraternity scrambling to find a permanent solution. Nevertheless, Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc in different ways hurting the world community not just in terms of health, but also economically, logistically and emotionally.

As of 2021, the virus is over a year old and a lot is known about its pathology since it first became a pandemic. What makes this virus alarming is the fact that it can remain asymptomatic upon contracting and continues to spread from thereon without the knowledge of the infected person. As a result, it is important to keep ahead of the virus by understanding how it works and what precautions one must take.

The two fundamental characteristics of any virus are

a) that infects a host and uses the host to replicate, and the other one being

b) that it mutates using variants.

Covid-19 as of today is not limited to the original Wuhan strain but has developed different variants with more virulent and infectious features. Variants do not mean that the virus has changed completely, but rather it means that the virus has made small changes to its spike protein to ensure effective invasion of the host.

The World Health Organization has categorized Covid-19 variants under two broad heads namely ‘Variant of concern’ and ‘Variant of Interest’. Among the two variants of concerns are considered alarming due to their fast-spreading nature. Let us look at some of the variants of Covid-19.

  • Alpha variant: The B.1.1.7 variant of concern was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020, and was considered highly infectious.
  • Beta variant: B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa in May 2020.
  • Gamma variant: P.1 variant was first spotted in Brazil in November 2020, and has been a major reason for the high death toll in the country.
  • Delta and Kappa variants: The B.1617.1 and B.1617.2 variants were first detected in India in October 2020, and caused an alarming spread overwhelming the country’s medical infrastructure.
  • Epsilon variant: B.1.427/ B.1.429 variant spotted in USA in March 2020

Other variants of ‘interest’ include the Epsilon (B1427/29), Zeta(P2) and Eta(B1525) first detected in the United States, Brazil and multiple countries respectively.

According to experts, the only way to beat the Covid-19 crisis is to achieve satisfactory coverage of vaccines which would develop herd immunity across the world. This will likely ensure the slowdown of the spread of the virus.

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