Its been over a year since the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or COVID-19 pandemic started late December 2019. In all this time, many people have turned their attention to the prevention and cure of the infectious disease. Medicines were administered and vaccines produced in the effort to reduce the infection rates. However, this is taking longer than expected because variants of the coronavirus have been discovered. A variant is a form or version of something which differs from other forms of the same thing.
It is natural for living organisms, especially the micro-organisms to mutate during their replication. Mutations also results from environmental factors to enable the organism to survive. However, natural selection comes into play which benefit those viruses with have higher rate of infection and ability to escape immunity.
Even though the coronavirus is an RNA virus, it has fewer mutation rates because it has an enzyme which corrects errors during replication. Mutations are changes that happen in the genome sequence of an organism. This results in different variations of the same organism. The changes in the genome then give different instructions and possibly changes in the next generation. The changes can give them better capabilities such as increased transmission rates. This is also known as survival of the fittest.
Different variants of the virus have been discovered which include B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and P.1 (Gamma) variants. By sequencing entire genomes of the variants, scientists all over the world are using this information to study the infectious nature of the virus and how to prevent the disease.
Apart from the variants, the geographical location of the outbreak is also important. Studies of the different places around the world can aid in the prediction of how many people can be infected with the virus.
Using these methods, scientists believe that they can warn the public and governments about when there will be either a rise or decline of outbreaks. They conclude that public health officials will respond and protect the public from any future outbreaks of any kind of pathogen.