Title: Appropriate names for COVID-19 variants
Authors: Karim SSA, de Oliveira T, Loots G.
Journal: Science,http://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6535/1215: (2021)
Unfortunately, variants are widely being referred to by their country of first description. This naming convention should be avoided. Using geographical regions to distinguish variants is harmful, as demonstrated by the term China virus, which has been used to blame and stigmatize China.
The connotation that the variants were created and spread by their respective first locations has already gen-erated political backlash through travel bans [e.g., (4)] and negative perceptions of these countries and their people. The risk of being associated with a new variant also disincentivizes country-level genomic surveillance and transparent reporting of their results.
The descriptions are also inaccurate. It is not known whether patient zero of each variant was a resident of or visitor to that country, and all variants have been identified well beyond the first countries in which they were identified (5). Variants that are more transmissible quickly become the dominant circulating variant in many countries, just like the D614G variant that rapidly became the dominant global variant early in the COVID-19 pan-demic (6).
Admittedly, mutation-based or lineage names are difficult to say and write. The World Health Organization is expected to announce a standard nomenclature soon (7). Until then, scientific and media reports should not refer to variants by country names.
Citation: Karim SSA, de Oliveira T, Loots G. Appropriate names for COVID-19 variants Science,http://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6535/1215: (2021).
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