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COVID-19: WHO renames coronavirus B.1.617.2 strain as 'Delta variant'

News Agencies | Updated on: 1 June 2021, 8:48 IST

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday renamed the B.1.617.2 variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, as the 'Delta variant'.

In a statement, the WHO said that it convened an expert group that recommended using easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels for Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOC). The group recommended using letters of the Greek Alphabet - Alpha, Beta, Gamma, which will be easier and more practical to discussed by non-scientific audiences.

Apart from the B.1.617.2 variant, the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom has been identified as 'Alpha variant'. The VOCs that were identified in South Africa and Brazil have been named 'Beta' and 'Gamma' respectively.

As for VOIs identified in the United States, Brazil, Philippines and other countries, the WHO has used nomenclature like 'Epsilon', 'Zeta', 'Iota', 'Theta' and more. The B.1.617.1 strain, also first identified in India, has been named as 'Kappa variant'.

The B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 is believed to have led to a devastating second wave of the pandemic in India, crippling healthcare infrastructure in the country and resulting in thousands of deaths every day.

On May 15, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that the B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19, first identified in India, is likely to take over and dominate in the UK.

The WHO earlier this month informed that the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19, first found in India in October last year, had been detected in sequences uploaded "from more than 40 countries in all six WHO regions".

The coronavirus variant, first identified in India last year, has been classified as a "variant of global concern", with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily, a senior WHO official informed. It is the fourth variant to be designated as being of "global concern".

The WHO also revealed that the variant has three sub-lineages. "Our team has been discussing with our virus evolution group. Everything we know about it in terms of transferability, studies that are being done, in India as well as in other countries where this virus is circulating. It is important to note that B.1.617 has three sub-lineages- .1, .2, .3," Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead COVID-19 at WHO.


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First published: 1 June 2021, 8:48 IST