WHO renames COVID-19 variants from India as ‘Delta’ and ‘Kappa’

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said the two coronavirus variants first found in India will be known as “Delta” and “Kappa”.

“COVID-19 variant first found in India will be referred to as ‘Delta’ while earlier found variant in the country will be known as ‘Kappa’,” the WHO said.

According to the WHO, the new labels were chosen after wide consultation and a review of many potential naming systems.

“The labels don’t replace existing scientific names, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research. No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting Covid variants,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical lead COVID-19 at WHO.

Naming SARS-CoV-2 variants

WHO said, “The established nomenclature 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. To assist with public discussions of variants, WHO convened a group of scientists from the WHO Virus Evolution Working Group, the WHO COVID-19 reference laboratory network, representatives from GISAID, Nextstrain, Pango and additional experts in virological, microbial nomenclature and communication from several countries and agencies to consider easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels for VOI and VOC.

“At the present time, this expert group convened by WHO has recommended using labeled using letters of the Greek Alphabet, i.e., Alpha, Beta, Gamma, which will be easier and more practical to discussed by non-scientific audiences.”

Variants of concern

The world body added: “A SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a variant of interest and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:

“Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or
Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.”

Variants of interest

“A SARS-CoV-2 isolate is a Variant of Interest (VOI) if, compared to a reference isolate, its genome has mutations with established or suspected phenotypic implications, and either: has been identified to cause community transmission/multiple COVID-19 cases/clusters, or has been detected in multiple countries, or is otherwise assessed to be a VOI by WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group,” a WHO statement read.

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