The variants question: What is the problem?J Med Virol. 2021 Dec; 93(12):6479-6485.JM
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) originated in Wuhan, China in early December 2019 has rapidly widespread worldwide. Over the course of the pandemic, due to the advance of whole-genome sequencing technologies, an unprecedented number of genomes have been generated, providing both invaluable insights into the ongoing evolution and epidemiology of the virus and allowing the identification of hundreds of circulating genetic variants during the pandemic. In recent months variants of SARS-CoV-2 that have an increased number of mutations on the Spike protein have brought concern all over the world. These have been called "variants of concerns" (VOCs), and/or "variants of interests" (VOIs) as it has been suggested that their genome mutations might impact transmission, immune control, and virulence. Tracking the spread of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants is crucial to inform public health efforts and control the ongoing pandemic. In this review, a concise characterization of the SARS-CoV-2 mutational patterns of the main VOCs and VOIs circulating and cocirculating worldwide has been presented to determine the magnitude of the SARS-CoV-2 threat to better understand the virus genetic diversity and its potential impact on vaccination strategy.