02 Sep 2021 - 09:57:18
|What is a variant of interest?
The World Health Organisation has just named a new coronavirus variant of interest - but what does that mean?
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There are thousands of different types - or variants - of Covid circulating across the world and health officials
keep a close watch on them all.
A mutation is elevated from a "variant of interest" to a "variant of concern" (VOC) when it shows evidence of
fulfilling at least one of several criteria, including easy transmission, more severe illness, reduced neutralisation
by antibodies or reduced effectiveness of treatment and vaccines.
Variants of concern include:
- Delta or B.1.617.2, the dominant variant in the UK
- Alpha (B.1.1.7) first identified in the UK but which spread to more than 50 countries
- Beta (B.1.351) first identified in South Africa but which has been detected in at least 20 other countries,
including the UK
- Gamma (P.1), first identified in Brazil but which has spread to more than 10 other countries, including
The WHO's currently designated variants of interest are named Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda and Mu.