There has been a lot of news about variants of the COVID-19 virus, particularly the three variants discovered in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South America. But, did you know there are many other variants of the COVID-19 virus being tracked by the Center for Disease Control?
In fact, variants of the COVID-19 virus happen all the time!
First off, what is a variant? According to the CDC, “A variant has one or more mutations that differentiate it from other variants in circulation.” This can mean a spike in the virus is a bit different in shape or something else changed.
For instance, in the UK variant, the amino acid asparagine has been replaced with tyrosine.
And variants happen all the time.
Most of the time, the variant doesn’t catch on. It might be in an individual and not spread or doesn’t overtake the original COVID-19 virus. In fact, it is believed that most changes of COVID-19 are never discovered.But variants can cause a problem, so the CDC provides an easy way for people to understand if the public needs to be concerned. They break down their variants into three categories in order of impact from least to most:
Variant of Interest: “A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.”
Right now, there are three such variants being monitored in the United States. Each were discovered in 2020 and have not proven to be a significant threat.
Variant of Concern: “A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (increased hospitalizations or deaths), a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”
Just by reading the definition of the variant, you can tell it is more serious. This is the level the three most well-known variants, the UK, Brazil, and South Africa variants, are housed. In addition to those three, there are two other variants in this category.
Variant of High Consequences: “A variant of high consequence has clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures (MCMs) have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants.”
This is the type of variant that concerns scientists the most. It’s the one that basically requires us to start over with vaccines and treatments because they do not work with this type of variant.
Luckily, this type of variant has not been detected and is not being watched by the CDC.
One of the keys to these variants, as with COVID-19 overall, is to remain vigilant and to test as often as possible.
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