COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus, ha claimed millions of lives so far. As the world continues to fight the deadly coronavirus, the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 has put the world on high alert. A World Health Organization (WHO) report on Thursday warned that four variants of SARS-CoV-2 causing the disease are circulating the globe. Here's everything you need to know about the variants.
D614G: The variant that replaced the initial COVID strain
According to WHO, "a variant of SARS-CoV-2 with a D614G substitution in the gene encoding the spike protein emerged in late January or early February 2020."
This mutated virus replaced the initial COVID strain - the one identified in China and became more dominant, said the report. The strain with D614G may increase infection and transmission but was not found to be more dangerous than the previous strain. The reports suggested that it does not cause severe illness or alter the effectiveness of the vaccines.
The second variant referred to as the "Cluster 5" variant was discovered in August and September 2020, in North Jutland, Denmark. Danish authorities identified the mutation in Denmark's mink breeding farms. According to the WHO report, Cluster 5 may result in "reduced virus neutralization in humans, which could potentially decrease the extent and duration of immune protection following natural infection or vaccination."
So far, the Danish authorities have identified only a few cases. They believe that this variant does not spread as widely as its counterparts.
VOC 202012/01: UK Covid-19 Variant
On 14 December 2020, UK authorities reported to WHO that they discovered a new variant, called SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01. It was first identified in southeast England.
You may like to read
Reports have suggested that this variant of coronavirus is 70 per cent more transmissible than the other mutations. It even forced many countries to suspend flights to and from the UK.
Preliminary research has found that the UK variant has increased transmissibility. But it did not indicate any changes in the severity of the disease. It was also reported that VOC 202012/01 variant was reported in 31 other countries/territories/ areas in five of the six WHO regions.
501Y.V2: Variant Found In South Africa
The fourth variant, 501Y.V2, was found in South Africa on December 18, 2020. Preliminary studies have suggested that the variant is associated with a higher viral load, which suggests increased transmissibility. However, there is no clear evidence that the new variant is causing more severe outcomes.
WHO reports said, "In the week beginning 16 November, routine sequencing by South African health authorities found that this new SARS-CoV-2 variant has largely replaced other SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces."