All viruses change over time, and Covid-19 is no exception. Here’s what we know about the variants circulating globally at the present time.
A virus with one or more mutations is called a “variant” of the original virus.
It is common for viruses to mutate and develop as they spread between people over time. When these changes become significantly different from the original virus, they are known as “variants.”
To identify variants, scientists plot the genetic material of viruses (known as sequencing) and then look for differences between them to see if they have changed. COVID-19 has been spreading globally, variants have emerged and been identified in many countries around the world.
SARS-CoV-2 Variants: What you must know
Since December 2020, several variants are identified and are under investigation. Variants of viruses occur when there is a change or mutation happen to the virus genes.
The more a virus spreads the more chance it has to mutate. Thousands of small changes have been seen in coronavirus so far-most with little impact.
Repeatedly, a virus changes in a way that helps it survive. Scientists are particularly concerned about changes to the spike protein -the part that helps it to enter human cells.
Variants of covid-19
Here’s a round-up of the current variants of covid -19, which are monitored by the WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Alpha (B.1.1.7)
- Beta (B.1.351)
- Gamma (P.1)
- Delta (B.1.617.2)
- Omicron (B.1.1.529)
Among these Delta and Omicron are spreading more easily among people.
All about ‘Stealth’ Omicron or Omicron BA.2
We’re learning a lot about the Omicron variant every day.BA.2 is the latest sub-variant of omicron, the dominant strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
The omicron variant, officially known as B.1.1.529, of SARS-CoV-2, has three main sub-variants in its lineage:
While the origin of BA.2 is still unclear, it has quickly become the leading strain in many countries, including India, Denmark, and South Africa. It is continuing to spread in Europe, Asia, and many parts of the world.
How fast does Omicron- BA.2 SPREAD?
Around the globe, the percentage of reported cases of variant BA.2 has been increasing in recent weeks. In the beginning, scientists believed BA.2 wasn’t as transmittable as BA.1 and would fade away soon. That didn’t happen. The BA.2 is currently the dominant variant circulating globally. BA.2 differs from other variants in
- Its genetic sequence
- Amino acid differences in the spike protein and other proteins.
Studies have shown that BA.2 has a growth advantage over BA.1.
BA.2 can spread faster than BA.1 but it causes less severe disease compared to the delta variant.
As with all viruses, SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will continue to evolve as long as it continues to spread. The more that the virus spreads, the more pressure there is for the virus to change. So, the best way to prevent new variants from emerging is to stop the spread of the virus.
Do Vaccines and Immunity work against BA.2?
Existing covid-19 vaccines continue to provide strong protection against infection and death across all variants. Still, scientists are working on vaccines against new variants to ensure safety and efficacy and also to provide even better and more durable protection against viruses.
BA.1 caused widespread infections across the world; it is likely that a majority of people have protective immunity against BA.2. This is why some scientists predict that BA.2 will be less likely to cause another major wave.
However, while the natural immunity gained after COVID-19 infection may provide strong protection against re-infection from earlier variants, it weakens against omicron.
Vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalization or death, and this effect increased to over 90% after a booster dose.
However, the precautionary measures remain the same
Though the covid-19 virus or its symptoms have changed over the past 2 years, the procedures and steps taken to protect and prevent ourselves from the virus remain the same.
- Wearing a Mask
- Maintaining social distance
- Following proper hand hygiene
- Covering cough and sneezes
- Getting vaccinated when it’s your turn
The coronavirus continues to evolve around the immune system’s defenses. A new vaccine like the Omicron-specific booster may be needed to increase protection against further reinfections. Until then stay safe and follow the protocols.