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SARS-CoV-2 Variants List: How many variants of COVID-19 are there in the world?

Arfa Javaid

SARS-CoV-2 Variants List: SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in China's Wuhan in 2019 and has since then undergone many mutations. Some of these have the potential to increase transmissibility and virulence while others may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines against them.

Of late, the global health body, WHO, has declared Omicron as a Variant of Concern. The latest strain of SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in South Africa and is said to be more dangerous than the Delta variant.  Through this article, let us have a look at the most notable variants of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Variants of Concern (VOC)
S.No. Name of Variant Lineage Earliest Sample First Outbreak Designated
1.  Alpha B.1.1.7 September 2020 United Kingdom 18 December 2020
2. Beta B.1.351 May 2020 South Africa 18 December 2020
3. Gamma P.1 November 2020 Brazil 11 January 2021
4. Delta B.1.617.2 October 2020 India 11 May 2021
5.  Omicron B.1.1.529 November 2021 South Africa 26 November 2021

Alpha Variant (lineage B.1.1.7)

Lineage B.1.1.7 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in the United Kingdom in September 2020. It is also known as 20I/501Y.V1 or 501Y.V1. On 18 December 2020, WHO declared it as a Variant of Concern (VOC). In their recent research, scientists have found no evidence of increased virulence. As of May 2021, the variant has been detected in around 120 countries. On 31 May 2021, WHO named it Alpha. 

Alpha Variant with E484K

On 2 February 2021, Public Health England reported the detection of a limited number of B.1.1.7 with E484K mutations, which they dubbed Variant of Concern 202102/02 (VOC-202102/02). Other names for this variant include B.1.1.7+E484K and B.1.1.7 Lineage with S: E484K. One of the mutations (N501Y) is also present in the Beta variant and Gamma variant.

Beta Variant (lineage B.1.351)

Lineage B.1.351 of  SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in South Africa in May 2020. It is also known as 501.V2, 20H/501Y.V2 or 501Y.V2. Its prevalence is higher among young people with no underlying health conditions and is more frequently resulting in serious illness in comparison with other variants. On 18 December 2020, WHO declared it as a Variant of Concern (VOC). On 31 May 2021, WHO named it Beta. 

Gamma Variant (lineage P.1)

Lineage P.1  of  SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in Brazil in November 2020. It is a descendent of lineage B.1.1.28. It has 17 unique amino acid changes, 10 of which in its spike protein, including the three concerning mutations: N501Y, E484K and K417T. It showed 2.2 times higher transmissibility with the same ability to infect both adults and elderly people. On 11 January 2021, WHO declared it as a Variant of Concern (VOC). On 31 May 2021, WHO named it Gamma. 

Delta Variant (lineage B.1.617.2)

Lineage B.1.617.2 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in India in October 2020. On 11 May 2021, WHO declared it as a Variant of Concern (VOC) and named it Delta on 31 May 2021. It can spread almost twice as fast as the Alpha variant and carries L452R, T478K and P681R mutations. The highly transmissible Delta variant has mutated further to form the 'Delta plus' or 'AY.1' variant. However, the newly-added variant is not yet a 'variant of concern' as its incidence is still low in India.

Omicron Variant (lineage B.1.1.529 )

Lineage of B.1.1.529 was first reported in South Africa in November 2021. WHO designated it as a Variant of Concern (VOC) on 26 November 2021 and named it Omicron. The latest variant of SARS-CoV-2 is said to be more dangerous than the previous variant of COVID-19, i.e. Delta variant. Omicron is contagious-- can spread quickly-- and is not resistant to the current vaccine. 

Variants of Interest (VOI)
S.No. Name of Variant Lineage Earliest Sample First Outbreak Designated
1.  Epsilon B.1.429, B.1.427 March 2020 United States 5 March 2021
2. Eta B.1.525 December 2020 Multiple Countries 17 March 2021
3. Kappa B.1.617.1 December 2020 India 4 April 2021
4. Lambda C.37 August 2020 Peru 14 June 2021
5. Lota B.1.526 November 2020 United States 24 March 2021
6. Theta P.3 January 2021 Philippines 24 March 2021
7. Zeta P.2 April 2020 Brazil 17 March 2021
8. Mu B.1.621 January 2021 Colombia 30 August 2021

Epsilon Variant (lineages  B.1.429, B.1.427)

Lineage B.1.429, B.1.427 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in the United States in March 2020. It is defined by five distinct mutations-- I4205V and D1183Y in the ORF1ab-gene, and S13I, W152C, L452R in the spike protein's S-gene. On 5 March 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Epsilon on 31 May 2021.

Eta Variant (lineage B.1.525)

Lineage B.1.525 of SARS-CoV-2 was reported in multiple countries in December 2020. Public Health England designated it as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI-21FEB-03). Eta differs from all other variants as it has both the E484K-mutation and a new F888L mutation. On 17 March 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Eta on 31 May 2021.

Kappa Variant (lineage B.1.617.1)

Lineage B.1.617.1 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in India in December 2020. On 1 April 2021, Public Health England designated it as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI-21APR-01). On 4 April 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Kappa on 31 May 2021.

Both Delta and Kappa are the sublineages of lineage B.1.617. 

Lambda Variant (lineage C.37)

Lineage C.37 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in Peru in August 2020. It carries mutations that might increase transmissibility or strengthen the virus's resistance to antibodies. On 14 June 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Lambda on 31 May 2021.

Lota Variant (lineage B.1.526)

Lineage B.1.526 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in the United States in November 2020. Initially, it reached relatively high levels in some regions but was outcompeted by the more transmissible Alpha variant in the spring of 2021. On 24 March 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Lota on 31 May 2021.

Theta Variant (lineage P.3)

Lineage P.3 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in the Philippines in January 2021. On 24 March 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Theta on 31 May 2021.

Zeta Variant (lineage P.2)

Lineage P.2 of SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in Brazil in April 2020. On 17 March 2021, WHO designated it as Variant of Interest (VOI) and named it Zeta on 31 May 2021.

How are the Coronavirus variants named?

रोमांचक गेम्स खेलें और जीतें एक लाख रुपए तक कैश

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