Recently, Indian news outlets Zee News and DNA published a story that said experts were warning people about COVID-22, a newer deadlier variant of the SARS-CoV-2 that is going to affect the world in 2022. In reality, only one expert, Professor Sai Reddy has claimed that the SARS-CoV-2 could get deadlier and called it COVID-22.
In an interview with British tabloid The Sun, Sai Reddy, a computational biologist, an Associate Professor of Systems and Synthetic Immunology at ETH Zurich in Switzerland shared his theory that COVID-22 could get worse than what we are witnessing now. He even called the Delta variant that is currently circulating across the world as COVID-21 in another interview to a German publication.
He was talking about a possibility of the emergence of such a variant but Sun as well as the Indian media channels chose to report it as if he was talking about the world being exposed to a definite, imminent virus in 2022.
COVID-22 started trending on Twitter with many users sharing sarcastic gifs and memes.
By August 24, the term was tweeted over 58,000 times.
Did We Have COVID-20 And COVID-21 Too?
Neither the World Health Organisation, nor the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have changed the terminology of the disease even though we are now in 2021.
The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus which was first discovered in Wuhan in China, in December 2019 was first referred to as n-CoV2019- novel coronavirus 2019. On February 11, 2020, the disease was classified as COVID-19.
While the original virus that was first detected in Wuhan is called SARS-CoV-2, the WHO has chosen Greek alphabets to name its subsequent variants that are caused by mutations in the original sequence.
Reddy chose to call Delta as COVID-21, but the B.1617.2 variant was actually detected in India in October 2020. It is the variant currently driving the pandemic across the world. Deaths due to the variant are being reported in fully vaccinated people who had pre-existing co-morbidities but the existing approved vaccines act against the variants and reduce severe disease.
All the other variants, be it the Alpha that emerged in the UK, Beta in South Africa, Gamma from Brazil also emerged in 2020. Ongoing research has shown that the vaccines can curb the effect of these vaccines, too.
Currently, other than these four variants of concerns, there are also a few variants of interest identified by the WHO. These variants although prevalent have not been transmitted as quickly as the variants of concern have among the populations.
Are Newer Variants A Possibility?
COVID-19 is a new disease in comparison to all the other prevailing diseases across the world. With no definite cure, preventive vaccines and a combination of several different treatment protocols, are the only available ways to tackle this disease currently.
Even though experts believe that the virus just like the influenza virus causing flu will become endemic to regions, COVID-19 is still an evolving disease.
The current COVID-19 vaccines are acting against the variants even if they are proving to be transmitting faster or are thought to be deadly. Vaccines are reducing severity, hospitalisation, and even death. The increasing cases in the US are higher among the unvaccinated populations.
Newer variants, thus, are a possibility but they cannot be predicted unless the pandemic goes out of control. According to Bruce Y. Lee, senior contributor to Forbes, COVID-19 is following the trajectory of the 1918 pandemic Spanish flu which was active for three years before its impact decreased.
Public health experts believe that in 2022, if a larger proportion of the population is vaccinated, SARS-CoV-2 will not be declared a pandemic anymore. However, there is further research required to conclude whether the virus can be eliminated eventually.
So far, the trends show that it is on its way to become an endemic like the flu seen in the US.
Updated On: 2021-08-27T18:13:50+05:30