MIT Technology Review
The name Delta, on the other hand, comes from the WHO system, which aims to simplify genomics for the general public. There are names for related Covid samples if it thinks they might be of particular interest. There are currently eight families with Greek letters, but until there is evidence that a new subline of the first Delta tribe behaves differently than its parents, WHO will consider them all to be Delta.
“Delta plus” takes the WHO designation and mixes it with Pangos ancestry information. That doesn’t mean the virus is any more dangerous or worrying.
“People get pretty scared when they see a new pango name. But we shouldn’t get upset about discovering new variants. We see all the time that new variants emerge without any different behavior, ”says Brito. “If we have evidence that a new lineage is more threatening, WHO will give it a new name.”
“For a genomics scientist like me, I want to know what variations we’re seeing,” said Kelsey Florek, senior genomics and data scientist at the state public health laboratory in Wisconsin. “It makes no difference to the general public. Classifying them all as Delta is enough to communicate with policy makers, public health and the public. “
Basically, viral evolution works like any other species. As the virus spreads in the body, it makes copies of itself, often with small flaws and changes. Most of these are dead ends, but occasionally a copy replicates with one flaw enough in one person to spread to someone else.
This week, scientists divided the “children” of Delta into 12 families in order to better track small local changes. None of this means that the virus has suddenly changed itself.
As the virus spreads from person to person, it accumulates these small changes so that scientists can track transmission patterns – just as we can look at human genomes and identify which people are related. But in a virus, most of these genetic changes have no bearing on how it actually affects individuals and communities.
However, genome scientists still need a way to track this viral evolution, both for basic research and for the earliest possible detection of behavioral changes. This is why they watch the patterns in the delta very closely because it is spreading so quickly. The Pango team continues to divide offspring of the first delta line, B.1.617.2, into subcategories of related cases.
Until recently it had registered 617.2 itself plus three “children” named AY.1, AY.2 and AY.3. This week the team decided to split these children into 12 families in order to better track small local changes – hence the 13 Delta variants. None of this means that the virus has suddenly changed itself.
“With these new variants, you split your hair especially at the edges,” says Duncan MacCannell, Chief Scientific Officer of the CDC Office of Advanced Molecular Detection. “Depending on how these definitions are created and refined, the hair can split in different ways.”
What is important to the public?
It’s worth noting that not all variants with WHO nicknames are equally bad. When the organization gives a name to a new family, it also adds a label that tells us how concerned we should be.
The lowest level is a Variant of interestwhich means it is worth paying attention to; in the middle is a Variant of concern, like Delta, which has clearly emerged as more dangerous. Often times, interesting variants are given this label because they share a mutation with worrying variants – they are monitored.