On Europe’s march towards restarting and reopening the specter of Delta variant of the coronavirus. The former “Indian” mutation – now renamed “Delta” by the WHO – has indeed a 40% higher transmissibility than the previous ones, according to an estimate drafted by the British Health Minister, Matt Hancock.
When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself it sometimes changes slightly. These changes are called “mutations”. A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original virus. Here are the faqs on the variants of the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus updated today by the General Directorate of Health Prevention in collaboration with the Istituto Superiore di Sanità.
Hundreds of variants of this virus have been identified around the world so far. WHO and its international network of experts constantly monitor changes so that, if significant mutations are identified, WHO can notify countries of any interventions to be taken to prevent the spread of that variant.
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What do we know about the variants of the SARS-CoV2 virus that are of most concern?
These are the variants that worry the WHO and ECDC experts the most:
What is the Delta variant
* Variant Alfa (VOC 202012/01 variant, also known as B.1.1.7) first identified in the UK.
This variant has been shown to have greater transmissibility than previously circulating variants (37% higher transmissibility than non-variant strains, with great statistical uncertainty, between 18% and 60%). The greater transmissibility of this variant translates into an absolute greater number of infections, thus also determining an increase in the number of severe cases.
What is the Beta variant
* Variant Beta (Variant 501Y.V2, also known as B.1.351) identified in South Africa.
Preliminary data indicate that, although it does not appear to be characterized by greater transmissibility, this variant could induce a partial “immune escape“against some monoclonal antibodies. As this effect could potentially affect the efficacy of vaccine-induced antibodies, this variant is monitored carefully.
What is the Gamma variant
* Variant Gamma (Variant P.1) with origin in Brazil.
Studies have shown one potential increased transmissibility and a possible risk of reinfection. There is no evidence on the increased severity of the disease.
What is the Delta variant
* Variant Delta (Variant VUI-21APR-01, also known as B.1.617) first detected in India.
It includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R and P681R, the simultaneous presence of which raises reasonable concern due to the potential for increased transmissibility and the possible risk of reinfection. Variants belonging to the Indian strain were also found, therefore genetically related, but lacking the E484Q mutation.
To date, there is no evidence that these variants cause more serious diseases or make the vaccines currently used less effective. In-depth research is underway, in collaboration with international partners, to better understand the impact of mutations on virus behavior and to ensure that all appropriate public health interventions are taken.
WHO: worrying only 1 of 3 Delta sub-variants
Only one sub-variant of the Delta variant of Covid-19, first detected in India, is still considered “worrying”, while two others have been downgraded. This was stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Indian variant B.1.617, renamed Delta, and believed partially responsible for the outbreak of the pandemic in India, has since spread to more than 50 territories, with three distinct sub-variants. WHO classified the entire variant as “worrying” last month, but yesterday said that only a sub-variant should now be considered as such.
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Why can a variant be more transmissible?
Some mutations can lead to changes in the characteristics of a virus, such as increased transmission (it can spread more easily) or greater severity (for example, it can cause more serious disease).
How widespread are the variants in our country?
The variant that arose in the United Kingdom (so-called Alpha variant) has now become the most prevalent in our country. Based on data from the fourth variant prevalence survey conducted by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, with the support of the Bruno Kessler Foundation and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces, in Italy as of April 20 2021:
- lwith national prevalence of the Alpha variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus (variant VOC 202012/01, also known as B.1.1.7) estimated in the survey of February 18 equal to 54% is now equal to 91,6%, with values ranging between the individual regions between 77.8% and 100%
- the Gamma variant (variant P.1) maintained a prevalence of 4,5% (previously it was 4.3%), but in the previous survey it was reported in Umbria, Tuscany, Lazio and Emilia-Romagna
- 4 cases of Delta variant (B.1.617 +) and 11 of that And (B.1.525)
- the other variants monitored are below 0.5%.
Are vaccines effective against variants of the new coronavirus?
Initial data confirm that all vaccines currently available in Italy are effective against Alpha variant of the new coronavirus (variant VOC 202012/01, also known as B.1.1.7).
Studies are underway to confirm the efficacy of vaccines on the other variants.
What measures has our country put in place to combat the spread of variants?
The emergence of new variants reinforces the importance for anyone, including those who have had the infection or who have been vaccinated, to strictly adhere to health and socio-behavioral control measures (use of masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene).
In order to limit the spread of new variants, Italy has ordered specific public health actions:
- strengthen laboratory surveillance against new SARS-CoV-2 variants
- provide guidance to implement research and contact management activities of suspected / confirmed COVID-19 cases for variant infection
- limit the entry into Italy of travelers from the countries most affected by the variants
- carry out rapid prevalence surveys to correctly estimate the diffusion of variants in our country
- arrange containment measures (red areas) in the most affected areas of the country, including at the municipal level
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To know the travel restrictions
What should I do if I have come into contact with a positive case for a variant of Sars-CoV-2?
Contacts of suspected / confirmed COVID-19 cases for variant infection must:
- * perform a molecular test as soon as possible after identification and on the 14th day of quarantine, in order to allow further tracing of contacts, considering the greater transmissibility of the variants
- * do not interrupt the quarantine on the tenth day
- * in the week following the end of the quarantine, they must strictly observe the physical distancing measures, wear a mask and in case of symptoms appear isolate themselves and contact the attending physician immediately.
The Prevention Department must carry out retrospective contact tracing of a confirmed case, i.e. beyond 48 hours and up to 14 days before the onset of the symptoms of the case, or swab if the case is asymptomatic, in order to identify the possible source of infection and further extend contact tracing to any identified cases.
Currently the disease presents with the same characteristics and the symptoms are the same in all variants of the virus.
The new classification of variants
There will be a system for cataloging variants of the Sars-Cov 2 virus. This was announced in Nature by a group of researchers from the World Health Organization’s Virus Evolution Working Group led by Mark Perkins. In the new system, variants of interest (VOI) and variants of concern (VOC) will be labeled using letters of the Greek alphabet and the names, along with the main scientific and medical characteristics, will be published and continuously updated.
According to this new classification, the English variant, whose first sample dates back to September 2020, becomes the Alfa variant. The South African instead is the Beta, while the Brazilian and the Indian become respectively the Gamma and the Delta.
Mark Perkins and colleagues noted that individual YOU and VOCs can have multiple names under current patterns and are often indicated by where they were first identified, which can discourage reporting and can be stigmatizing, as well as potentially. misleading. The new system, they explain, “is intended to facilitate the sharing of research progress with a wider audience and aims to provide a platform to enable clear global discourse about YOU and VOC.”
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