What are the COVID-19 Variants and how do they affect you?

Different genetic variants of the COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 are emerging and have been circulating all around the globe all through the pandemic period. Different mutations in various viruses and their variants are being monitored on a routine basis using genetic sequencing-based surveillance systems, laboratory-based studies as well as by investigation of observations and collected epidemiological data. SARS-CoV-2 Inter-agency Group formed by the United States government has developed a scheme for the classification of various variants. Accordingly, there are three types of COVID-19 variants: Variants of Interest, Variants with Concern, and Variants with high Consequence.

Variants of concern are: a) Alpha or B.1.1.7, b) Beta or B.1.351, B.1.351.2 and B.1.351.3, c) Delta or B.1.617.2, AY.1, AY.2 and AY.3 and d) Gamma or P.1, P.1.1 and P.1.2 variants that have been found circulating among population especially in the United States. However, till now no variants with high consequences have been isolated so far.

Due to an increase in numbers of sub-lineages that may be associated with the Alpha, Delta, and Gamma variants, the Centre for Disease Control has preferred to refer to these lineages as: ‘Q’ sub-lineages or Alpha, ‘AY’ sub-lineages or Delta and ‘P.1’ sub-lineages or Gamma.

All viruses undergo constant alteration via genetic mutations. Whenever any virus has undergone newer mutations, it has been termed as a variant.

Delta variant is approximately twice as contagious when compared to earlier known variants and is responsible for severe disease. The highest risk of viral transmission is observed among non-vaccinated individuals. Alpha variant spreads faster with approximately 50% rise in transmissibility as compared with other variants and may exhibit an increase in the risk of hospitalization or death. Gamma variant reduces the effectiveness of some monoclonal antibody medications and the antibodies generated by a previous COVID-19 infection or a COVID-19 vaccine. Beta variant undergoes rapid spread with a 50% increase in transmission. This variant also causes a reduction in the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of the variants produce similar symptoms. The ‘Delta’ SARS-CoV-2 variant results in more severe infections that spread at a much faster rate as compared with the other variants. This variant may result in a greater degree of severity of illness when compared to previously diagnosed strains.

What Vaccines work on each Variant?

COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated protection against Delta as well as other variants by effectively preventing people from contacting COVID-19 and getting grievously sick. It is not known about the effectiveness of each of these vaccines. Infections can take place in a minor proportion even in the fully vaccinated population. Also, there is evidence available that has suggested even following complete vaccination, people can still become infected especially with the Delta variant, and can spread this virus to other people.

Every necessary precaution or measure must be taken to stop the spread of the virus to prevent any mutations that can cause a reduction in the efficacy of already existent vaccines. In addition to this, since the COVID-19 virus is continuously evolving, manufacturing companies must constantly strive towards incorporating any newer strains while developing vaccines. This might include the addition of booster doses. Clinical trials must be designed as well as maintained for allowing any alterations in vaccine effectiveness, for assessment of effectiveness, and must be conducted on a sufficiently sized scale for the interpretation of correct results.

Most of the data related to the effectiveness of vaccines are associated with mRNA vaccines and till now, research studies on mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated effectiveness in real-time. Currently, available data is suggestive of two dosages for mRNA vaccines than a single dose.

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Each Variant And How Can We Differentiate Them?

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease affecting the respiratory system and is caused by infection with SARS-CoV-2. It usually spreads between individuals in a close vicinity i.e., those who are within 6 feet/2 meters. This virus undergoes spread via respiratory droplets that are released through breathing, coughing, sneezing, or talking.

Infections like COVID-19 and the common cold are due to different viruses wherein, COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, while the common cold infection is commonly due to rhino-viruses. Both of these can spread identically and demonstrate similar signs and/or symptoms though, there are a few differentiating features like symptoms of COVID-19 usually appear within 2 to 14 days following exposure while those of common cold appear within 1 to 3 days after exposure.

The most frequent symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, headache, cough, and tiredness. COVID-19 may result in a variety of complications like the formation of clots in blood as well as multi-system inflammatory syndrome among children.

Symptoms of the Delta variant are similar to other viral strains. The most common symptoms of this strain that are reported include cough, loss of smell, headache, soreness of throat, cold or running nose, and fever.

What is a breakthrough infection?

“Break-through cases” are those cases wherein individuals with complete vaccination may contact the COVID-19 infection. These types of cases are extremely rare. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), these breakthrough infections are due to the Delta variant. However, if any vaccinated individual catches the infection, he/she can still transmit the virus. The CDC is continuously assessing data on whether individuals suffering from breakthrough cases may develop symptoms that can cause the virus to spread.

The Delta and Delta Plus variants

The Centre for Disease Control has labeled the Delta variant, under the category of “variant of concern”. This designation was also given to the ‘Alpha’ strain that first appeared in the United Kingdom. The Beta strain of COVID-19 was first seen in South Africa while the Gamma strain was identified in Brazil. This new convention for designating all the variants has been established by the World Health Organization or WHO as an alternative to suggesting numerical names. Both children, as well as adults under 50 years of age, were up to 2.5 times more likely to get infected with the Delta variant. As individuals with older age groups are getting vaccinated, those who are of younger age group and are unvaccinated are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 with any of the variants. The Delta variant appears to have a greater impact on younger age groups when compared to previous variants.

“Delta Plus” is a sub-variant of Delta strain and has been found in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The Delta Plus variant has an additional genetic mutation to the one which the Delta variant contains. This genetic mutation has been termed as the “K417N” mutation that has been found to affect the spike protein which this virus requires for infecting the host cells. This mutation in spike protein is important as it forms the main aim for various anti-COVID19 vaccines including the mRNA vaccines.

The Delta Plus variant was first reported from India, however, a similar type of mutations have been reported in other variants like Beta that has also caused emergence previously. Sufficient availability of the data may be required for determining the actual spreading rate of disease and impact of the newer variant overburden of disease and clinical outcome.

Is the COVID Lambda Variant more dangerous than Delta Variant?

Variations in SARS-CoV-2 viruses occur as a result of genetic mutations within their genes. Since it is an RNA virus, it can undergo mutations and evolve along with gradual change. Also, geographical barriers may result in distinct genetic variants. All of these genetic mutations within the viruses including the SARS-COV-2 have resulted in the causation of the present COVID-19 pandemic, however, such behavior of the virus is neither new nor completely unexpected.

Lambda is a “type of a variant of the pre-existing alpha variant”. This variant has been classified as among the earliest isolated ‘variants with concern’. The Lambda variant undergoes spread till it turns into a dominant viral sequence among people as it has been observed during the spread of lambda variant induced COVID-19 disease in Peru. The World Health Organization observed the highest prevalence of lambda variants in South American nations which include Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador. This variant has now been shown to be prevalent in the United States as well.

This variant of lambda has been known to carry quite a number of genetic mutations with serious clinical implications, for example, an increase in viral transmissibility or possibly an increase in resistance towards neutralizing antibodies according to the World Health Organization. However, the complete extent of these acquired genetic mutations and their impact is not yet understood and will require further research.

Here’s how Centric Healthcare’s Nurses Helps You Explain about COVID-19 Variants

There is a wide range of services including educating individuals about various variants of the virus and the differences in their infectivity in addition to providing care to individuals infected with COVID19.

For more visit or Look for Rochester Skilled Nursing Care, Rochester Private Duty Nursing, and/or if you some special needs, call Centric Healthcare. We provide a wide range of services to those in the Rochester, Minnesota.

References
  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant-info.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/a-new-strain-of-coronavirus-what-you-should-know
  4. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/expert-answers/covid-variant/faq-20505779