Pirola. Eris. Kraken.
Covid-19 subvariants’ viral nicknames lead back to one man: evolutionary biologist T. Ryan Gregory. Gregory, 48 years old, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, works with a band of unofficial Covid-19 trackers on social media to follow subvariants of note and give them monikers when they seem to be standing out from the pack.
They are working outside the World Health Organization’s system for assigning Greek letters to so-called variants of concern or interest. But their nicknames have caught on among news outlets, doctors and vaccine makers. Some virologists and public-health experts said the nicknames create confusion and exaggerate risks.
Gregory said he and his comrades are trying to help people make sense of the Omicron subvariant soup. “I think it creates some clarity," Gregory said. The WHO started naming notable Covid-19 variants after Greek letters in the spring of 2021.
The organization said the letters and numbers researchers use could be difficult for others to follow, and it didn’t want to stigmatize places by naming variants for where they were identified. The variant of concern B.1.1.7, also called the U.K. variant, became Alpha.
Other Greek letters followed, including Delta, which drove a summer wave of cases and deaths in 2021. Since Omicron emerged later that year, the landscape has become littered with Omicron descendants, competing and evolving to chip away at our immune defenses. None have stood out enough for the WHO to name.
Someone on X, formerly Twitter, declared they would call one of the subvariants Centaurus. Gregory saw an opportunity to help people differentiate the latest threats. “If the WHO isn’t going to use Greek letters anymore, what if we. Read more on livemint.com