The emergence of new strains with the spread of the coronavirus entails novel difficulties and uncertainties in the fight against the pandemic, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.
COVID-19 has been changing in time, just like any other virus. While the essential traits of the virus remain the same, some changes that are described as "mutations" can lead to considerable differences in the basic characteristics and, accordingly, the effects of the virus.
Scientists point out how easily the mutations of COVID-19 spreads, the disease setting, the level of immunity of the vaccines, and the success of diagnosis, treatment and protection measures.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined four of the mutations of COVID-19 that have emerged so far as a "variant of concern" (VOC) and eight as a "variant of interest" (VOI).
The organization warned that the variants of concern are associated with "increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics."
The other eight variants defined as variants of interests, however, have been "identified to cause community transmission2/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries."
On May 31, WHO decided to name the variants, which had previously been named after the countries where they emerged, with letters of the Greek alphabet.
Accordingly, the four VOC were named as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, whereas the eight VOI were named as Epsilon (two variants), Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.
Scientists have so far detected over 4,000 mutations in the structure of the COVID-19 virus.
Most of the variants that are classified as VOC and VOI result from the changes in the spike protein, which allows the virus to attach to human cells.