The COVID-19 variant first found in India will henceforth be referred to as the "Delta variant", the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday. India had on May 12 objected to it, identified as B.1.617 till now, being labelled the "Indian variant". The world health body had earlier said that viruses or variants should not be identified by the names of countries they were found in.
"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.
The established nomenclature systems for naming and tracking of SARS-CoV-2 genetic lineages will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research, the WHO has said. A group convened by WHO has recommended using letters of the Greek alphabet, that is Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and so on. This "will be easier and more practical to be discussed by non-scientific audiences," it said.
The variant "earlier found" in India will be known as "Kappa", the WHO has said.
Together, lineages of the B.1.617 variant were officially recorded in 53 territories and unofficially in another seven. It had shown to be more transmissible, while disease severity and risk of infection are still under investigation.
The B.1.617 was recorded last October. It has been found in 44 countries, according to WHO. "As such, we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level," it had said. Before that, it was listed as a "variant of interest".
This strain is called a double mutant because of the presence of two changes in the virus's genome, called E484Q and L452R.
Three others, first detected in Britain, Brazil, and South Africa, are already classified as being "of concern".