Mukesh Bhardwaj cries as he sits next to his wife, who receives free oxygen support for people suffering from breathing problems, outside Gurudwara (Sikh temple), among the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad, India, May 3 2021
Adnan Abidi | Reuters
The World Health Organization is closely monitoring 1
New strains of Covid-19 appear every day as the virus continues to mutate, but only a handful make the official WHO watch list a “variant of interest” or the more serious name “variant of concern”, commonly referred to as mutated strain it is more contagious, more deadly and more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.
The organization classifies three strains of concern: B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom and is the most common strain currently circulating in the United States; B.1.351, first discovered in South Africa, and variant P.1, first discovered in Brazil.
One option of interest is variant B.1617, or the triple-mutant strain first discovered in India, but WHO technical manager for Covid-19, Maria Van Kerhove, said more research is needed to fully understand its significance.
“In fact, there are a number of variants of viruses that are found all over the world, and we all need to make a proper assessment,” Van Kerhove said. Scientists examine the extent to which each option circulates in local areas, whether mutations change the severity or transmission of the disease, and other factors before categorizing them as a new threat to public health.
“The information is coming fast and furious,” she said. “Every day there are new options that are identified and reported, not all of which are important.”
Other options classified as options of interest include B.1525, which was first discovered in the UK and Nigeria; B.1427 / B.1429, first discovered in the United States; P.2, first discovered in Brazil; P.3, first discovered in Japan and the Philippines; S477N, first discovered in the United States and B.1.616, first discovered in France.
Van Kerhove said classifications are determined, at least in part, by sequencing capacity, which varies from country to country. “It’s really uneven so far,” she said.
She said the agency also sees local epidemiologists as an extension of the agency’s “eyes and ears” to better understand the situation on the ground and identify other potentially dangerous options.
“It is important to have appropriate discussions to determine which ones are important in terms of the value of public health, which means whether it changes our ability to use social measures in the field of public health or any of our medical countermeasures,” she said.
“We gather the right people in the room to discuss what these mutations mean,” she said. “We need the global community to work together, and they are.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has a list of four options of interest and five options of concern, which is similar to the WHO list, although the CDC mainly focuses on options that cause new outbreaks in the United States.
Van Kerhove said a number of countries “have some worrying trends, some alarming signs of an increase in the number of cases, an increase in hospitalization rates and intensive care in countries that do not yet have access to the vaccine, which have not reached the required coverage levels.” to have this impact on serious illness and death and on transmission. “