Dear Colleagues! This is Pharma Veterans’ Blog Post #574. Pharma Veterans welcome sharing of knowledge and wisdom by Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi onWordPress, the top blog site. Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing your contributions here.
COVID19 became COVID20 – COVID21, and now going into COVID22. The world is still struggling with the epidemic which has become endemic in certain areas. Along with the timeline, the virus has mutated, and several variants have so far been detected and reported. The most recent Omicron variant has renewed the discussion on COVID.
The job of detecting and studying variants is mostly done in the US and Europe, and the information is shared with the rest of the world. Curiously, Japan has not commented much on these cases although their research capability is highly developed.
I shall dedicate this post and couple of next ones also on sharing what is known as of now; the variants that have been detected and the properties they carry.
SARS-CoV-2 – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 – is the virus that caused COVID19 – Corona Virus Disease 2019. Starting at the end of 2019 allegedly from Wuhan, China, it quickly spread all over the globe. It was understood because people were constantly traveling in routine and spreading the disease. The world took some time to wake up and impose restrictions of multiple kinds within and outside the countries.
Vaccines were developed in record time and produced in amazingly rapid time for protection against virus. We all know the hype, confusion, agitation, and desperation around vaccines. Pakistan did quite well in acquiring, disseminating, and injecting vaccines to masses free of cost. Some private institutions imported and provided vaccine at cost, but the largest majority got it free. It is truly good work done by the administration, politics besides.
It is already known that viruses have the tendency and capability to mutate rapidly. This becomes a challenge in several ways. The transmissibility, infectivity, severity, and response to vaccine protection needs to be studied for every new variant that is identified. WHO has remained the main source of information to public; they collect information from various study centers, evaluate and publish for general public. Following terms have been used by WHO to describe variants.
VOI – Variant of Interest – the ones that are relevant to spread of disease
VOC – Variant of Concern – the ones which have more propensity to cause infectivity, morbidity, and mortality, along with response to vaccine.
VUM – Variant Under Monitoring – the ones above and some more which are constantly monitored.
The BMJ – British Medical Journal article reports that 8 notable variants have been found since September 2020. ECDC – European Center for Disease Control – reports 4 VOC, 3 VOI, and 9 VUM. USCDC – United States Center for Disease Control – adds a fourth category, VOHC – Variant of High Consequence. USCDC reports 10 Variants that are Being Monitored – VBM.
A very simple and basic understanding may be gained with the following terms.
Mutation – refers to a single change in the virus genetic code
Lineage – refers to closely related viruses with a common ancestor
Variant – refers to a viral genetic code with one or more mutations. Variants are labeled by their genetic code and lineage. Based on these attributes they may be designated as VOI or VOC.
The most recently reported variant – Omicron – is a Variant of Concern, VOC. Let us look at the VOCs reported so far. We shall not discuss the original virus; our focus is on variants. I shall keep the discussion less complex and less technical.
Alpha variant – was first reported in September 2020 in the United Kingdom. It was designated VOC in December 2020. Alpha had high transmissibility (spreading from one person to other), high hospitalization rate and high mortality.
Beta variant – was first reported from South Africa in May 2020, designated VOC in January 2021. It had moderate transmissibility, and the hospitalization and mortality remained undetermined.
Delta variant – was first reported from India in October 2020 and was designated VOC in May 2021. Delta had very high transmissibility, hospitalization, and mortality.
Gamma variant – was first reported from Brazil in November 2020 and was designated VOC in January 2021. It had high transmissibility; hospitalization and mortality were undetermined.
Omicron variant – has been first reported from South Africa in November 2021 and was designated VOC in the same month. It is showing high transmissibility while other parameters are being monitored and investigated.
To be Continued…..
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