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SUNDAY, October 02, 2022
Experts closely monitoring changes in virus, WHO assures

Experts closely monitoring changes in virus, WHO assures

TUESDAY, June 01, 2021

International networks of experts are monitoring changes to the Sars-CoV-2 virus so that if significant mutations are identified, they can inform countries and the public about how to deal with the variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Globally, systems have been established and are being strengthened to detect “signals” of potential Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs) and assess these based on the risk posed to global public health, the WHO said.

The world body said all viruses, including Sars-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes Covid-19 -- change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the virus’ properties. However, some changes may affect the virus’s properties, such as how easily it spreads, the associated disease severity, or the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures.

The WHO said that it had been monitoring and assessing the evolution of Sars-CoV-2 since January 2020, in collaboration with partners, expert networks, national authorities, institutions and researchers.

During late 2020, the emergence of variants that posed an increased risk to global public health prompted the characterisation of specific VOIs and VOCs, in order to prioritise global monitoring and research, and ultimately to inform the ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the WHO said.

National authorities may choose to designate other variants of local interest/concern.

Current strategies and measures recommended by the WHO continue to work against virus variants identified since the start of the pandemic, the world body said.

Naming Sars-CoV-2 variants

The established systems for naming and tracking Sars-CoV-2 genetic lineages by GISAID, Nextstrain and Pango are currently and will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research, the WHO said.

To assist with public discussions on the variants, the WHO said that an expert group it had convened had recommended using letters of the Greek alphabet, ie, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, which would be easier and more practical for discussion by non-scientific audiences.

Photo Credit: World Health Organisation