New Naming System for Virus Variants

What is the News?

The World Health Organization(WHO) has announced that it would unveil a new naming system for Virus Variants. The system would be similar to the way tropical storms are named.

What is the current method of naming Virus Strains?
  • Currently, WHO and other agencies across the world refer to viruses and their variants by formal lineage names. It is a combination of letters and names that point to the relationships between different variants.
    • Example: Variants such as B.1.1.7 and B.1.617 are named after mutations in common and as well clues to their evolutionary history.
  • Geographical tag: The virus names and their associated diseases have also been frequently named after geographical places where outbreaks were first reported or samples first isolated.
    • Example: West Nile virus, Ebola, U.K Strain(B.1.1.7) and South African Strain(B.1.351).
What is the problem with this method of naming strains?
  • The current method is stigmatizing and disincentivizing countries from making their sequencing results public as the virus strains are associated with the geographical tag.
  • Moreover, the current naming of virus variants is also difficult to remember for the public due to complicated lineage numbers.
What will the new method be like?
  • The new method of naming virus strains would be similar to the way tropical storms are named.
  • For the naming of tropical storms, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) leaves it to countries that surround a particular ocean basin to come up with names.

Source: The Hindu

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