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Is There Another Variant of COVID?

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is currently making North American headlines as it drives a spike in cases. But in the realm of COVID variants, Delta is actually a little bit of old news. The first Delta variant case was identified in December 2020, and we are almost at the end of 2021.

In the meantime, The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated four more official “variants of interest,” Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda. And, the WHO is tracking 13 additional variants that originated in the U.S., Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Colombia, and other nations. That’s 17 additional variants that have emerged after the Delta variant, each with just as much potential to spread on a global scale.

Let’s talk more about these emerging variants of COVID-19, including how their symptoms might be different, where each came from, and what makes it different.

Covid Variant Meaning

For a mutation of COVID-19 to get classified as a variant, that means it must infect and replicate within the population.

  • Variants of concern are more contagious and more severe at a degree of global public health significance. Cause for concern includes decreased effectiveness of social distancing and public health measures, as well as decreased effectiveness of medicines or vaccines.
  • Variants of interest are emerging risks, where pockets of transmission have occurred in one or more nations but the variant doesn’t yet represent its own unique global health risk.

The truth is any individual could be the source of a new COVID-19 variant. Each of our immune systems responds differently to the virus, and within each of us, the virus is replicating and potentially mutating. If you spread that mutated COVID-19 to someone else, and they spread it to someone else, and then it continues to spread—well, that’s the literal definition of going viral.

Emerging COVID-19 variants of interest are monitored for the below criteria to determine when they are becoming Covid variants of concern:

  • Increased transmissibility
  • Increased number of cases
  • Increased deaths
  • Increased risk of “long COVID”
  • Resistance to detection by current testing methods
  • Resistance to antiviral drugs or antibodies, including high rate of reinfections
  • Increased affinity for high-risk populations like children, the elderly, or the immunocompromised

Let’s look at the worldwide list of Covid variants, as well as the CDC Covid19 variants list, to review how each fits in with this list of risks.

WHO Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest

Here is a list of the Covid19 variants that are under watch by the World Health Organization.

Variants of Concern

  • Alpha: Alpha originated in the United Kingdom in September 2020. COVID-19 vaccines are still proven highly effective against the Alpha variant, even though it is 50% more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus.
  • Beta: The Beta variant also emerged in September 2020, in South Africa. This variant has a unique mutation which researchers have nicknamed the “Eek” mutation. Beta variant has a spike protein mutation that makes it able to evade antibodies and potentially reinfect those who have already had COVID-19 or been vaccinated.
  • Gamma: The Gamma variant was detected in December 2020 and today makes up a majority of the cases in Brazil and Chile. This variant also has the Eek mutation, which has driven reinfections. In June 2020, this variant made up 11% of the cases in the United States.
  • Delta: Delta emerged in India in late 2020 and is today the dominant global variant of concern. Delta is identified as a “double mutant” because there are two key mutations that make it especially concerning. One is a change to the spike protein that is similar to the Eek mutation, but not identical. The second is a mutation that lets Delta variant bind more closely to human cells.

Variants of Interest

  • Eta: The Eta variant was identified in Nigeria in late 2020, and includes the Eek mutation as well as new, concerning changes to the spike protein. Also detected in the U.K., Eta variant currently makes up only a small percentage of cases.
  • Iota: Iota variant spread in New York City in November 2020 and made up more than 25% of cases in the city by February 2021. By August, it declined to less than 1% of cases.
  • Kappa: The Kappa variant was detected in India during October 2020 and ultimately caused May 2021 lockdowns in Australia. It is closely related to the Delta variant.
  • Lambda: Lambda emerged from Peru in September 2020 and has started to spread in Latin America and the United States. Like others, Lambda carries many of the spike virus mutations and other mutations that make variants of interest a potential for concern.

For more information about the current status of these variants as well as updates about new strains, visit the World Health Organization website.

CDC Variants of Concern

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes all the same variants of interest and variants of concern as the World Health Organization. The CDC is also monitoring two unnamed domestic variants of interest that both originated in California.

In addition to variants of concern and variants of interest, the CDC also monitors for variants of high consequence. These are potential variants that are so significantly different, the current testing and vaccine resources do not help against them in any significant fashion. While no variants of high consequence have yet been identified in the United States, quick response will be essential if the time ever comes.

Trust BioCollections for COVID-19 Variant Testing

As these variants spread in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, the new Covid19 variant symptoms to watch for are no longer evident. Now more than ever it’s important to know where to go for rapid, reliable COVID-19 testing that can help you keep yourself and others safe, even when you aren’t showing symptoms. In California, Florida, Nevada and Puerto Rico BioCollections is proud to serve as a resource for individuals and groups in need of COVID-19 testing. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or learn more about employee testing solutions. 

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