How many variants are there? In Italy already 9, but in Brazil they have isolated 19. Here they are, from Alfa to Zeta

How many variants are there? In Italy already 9, but in Brazil they have isolated 19. Here they are, from Alfa to Zeta
How many variants are there? In Italy already 9, but in Brazil they have isolated 19. Here they are, from Alfa to Zeta

Every day we discover something more. News of new overwhelms us every day variants, and already present that spread like wildfire, spread, create anxiety and even psychosis. But how many variants are there? Impossible an exact account. A few weeks ago, in Brazil, a first mapping was made by the Butantan Institute which highlighted it the circulation of as many as 19 in the state of São Paulo alone. In Italy, nine have been detected so far while in the world there will be many more. For example, in 2020 in Brazil they isolated the so-called Zeta, while in last January in the Philippines the Theta. And while trying to take countermeasures to the Delta variant, you are already starting to worry about the Kappa.

Variants, names and infections

Then it will be the turn of Omicron and then Sigma: in short, sooner or later the letters of the Greek alphabet will end, and when it comes to Omega, it will be necessary to invent another name for these hated variants. Already since last year But there is, in Italy, who has discovered one never recorded before, Corradina is called: she was isolated from the team directed by Giuseppe Portella, full professor and director of the virology laboratory of the Federico II Polyclinic in Naples . They are called variants because they modify the sequence of the genome, even the replacement of a single amino acid, which goes to make up the viral proteins, can influence the course of the disease and the infections.

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«The Corradina variant hto a change in the ORF3 gene explains the virologist – and its observation can allow to improve the management of the infection in the most fragile, who heal with difficulty ». It was named after Conrad of Swabia, the last descendant of Frederick II. But Professor Portella also isolated, for the first time in Italy, the Nigerian variant, now called Eta, and currently responsible for 1.2% of infections.

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In summary, we started with Alpha, then Beta, Gamma, Delta: of the letters of the Greek alphabet that designate the most widespread variants of the SarsCoV2 virus in circulation in the world, nine have also been reported in Italy. This was indicated by the international bank Gisaid, in which the genetic sequences obtained in countries around the world are deposited. The data it publishes does not constitute a portrait of the situation in the various countries, but refers exclusively to the quantity of sequences deposited. Currently the variant Alfa (B.1.1.7), identified in October 2020 in Great Britain, is still the most common in Italy even if in the space of a few days it dropped from 53.5% to 44.3% of the total sequences deposited. Its carrier version of the E484K mutation is being monitored and is on the rise.

The second variant for diffusion is the Delta, indicated with the acronym B.1.617.2 and identified in India, it has rapidly spread to a hundred countries thanks to the great efficiency with which it is transmitted, estimated between 50% and 60% higher than the Alfa variant. It is also under special surveillance in Italy, where it represents 27.2% of the sequences deposited. Both the Alpha and the Delta are so-called Vocs (Variants of concern), i.e. variants that cause concern and are followed closely around the world. It is a Voc and the variant also circulates in Italy Gamma, indicated with the initials P.1 and identified at the beginning of 2021 in Japan and then in Brazil. In recent days, the sequences filed by our country have decreased from 7.3% to 4.3%. The variant is also present in Italy Beta (B.1.351), identified in South Africa and able to spread with an efficiency greater than 50% compared to the original virus and especially among young people.

For about a month, no sequence has been filed from our country. The other five reported in Italy are classified as variants under investigation, ie as Vui (Variants under investigation). Among these, the only one of which sequences have recently been deposited is the And (B.1.525), first identified in Nigeria and corresponding to 1.5% of the sequences deposited by Italy. The deposited sequences of the variant correspond to 0.4% Lambda (C 37), identified in Peru. The other variants, of which there have been reports in Italy in recent weeks, but with no recent genetic sequence, are the Epsilon, indicated with the initials B.1.429 and B.1.427, identified in California; there Iota (B.1.526) identified in New York and the Closeta (B.1.617.1) and identified in India.

The estimate on the prevalence of variants of SARS-CoV-2, reported in the prevalence survey conducted by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and the Ministry of Health together with the regional laboratories and the Bruno Kessler Foundation, shows that, in Italy, on 22 June 2021, there is a prevalence of the so-called Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) equal to 57.8%, down from 88.1% on May 18, with values ​​ranging between the individual regions between 16, 7% and 100%; the Gamma variant (P.1) has a prevalence of 11.8% (with a range between 0 and 37.5%, while in the previous survay it was 7.3%); the Delta variant (B.1.167.2) has a prevalence of 22.7% and has been identified in 16 Regions / PAs, with a range between 0 and 70.6%.


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