Covid-19: What are the variants called?

“Alpha”, “Beta”, “Gamma”, “Delta” … new variants appear every day in several places around the world. But when should they be named? Dépêche’s editorial team considered the question by interviewing Antoine Flaholt, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva.

The epidemiologist explains: “Virgin variants are put in competition with each other in such a pandemic and we can see each of the local epidemics as many tournaments as a new variant can lose or win,” Antoine Flaholt. To win the championship, the alternate must emerge as the dominant strain at the end of the fight. Thanks to this competitive advantage, the variant will be able to permanently establish itself in the pandemic landscape at the moment.

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Alternate arrival generally takes place after the arrival of travelers from the country or region in which he is traveling. By winning the local tournaments, he will eventually succeed in establishing himself at the national and continental level. The scientist describes: “Once one of the variables wins in the local and then regional tournaments, it becomes the center of attention of the health authorities. They are called ‘variables of interest’.” But if they exhibit high transmissibility characteristics, they are described as “variables of concern”.

sequencing technology to identify it

The systematic discovery of new variants is explained by the fact that some Countries that are sequencing the virus. Using this technology, the latter has a much better chance of being able to detect the circulation of new variants on its territory. As the professor explains, “PCR is a probe that identifies only a few bases of the virus genome while sequencing comprehensively identifies all 30,000 bases of the viral RNA strand. Only the sequence can identify the variable.”

Existing variables and the possibility of their elimination

Such as Scientific names for coronavirus variants He seemed confused to the audience, and to avoid stigmatizing their country from initial identification, the World Health Organization suggested a designation in Greek letters. Names that quickly proved themselves in the media. Currently, there are four variables: an alpha variable (such as “British”), a beta variable (such as “from South Africa”), a gamma variable (formerly “Brazilian”) and a delta variable (such as “Indian”).

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For the virologist, the only solution to avoid the emergence of new variants remains to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 from the planet. “As long as the virus spreads anywhere in the world, the world will not be safe from the emergence of new variants.”

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