COVID creates frenzy in scientific community, over a name

August 26, 2021

LONDON — What’s in a name, for a rose with any other name would still smell sweet. That quote by William Shakespeare would be met with some skepticism by the scientific community over naming COVID and its variants.

Sai Reddy, a professor of synthetic immunology at ETH Zurich, a public research university in Switzerland, has coined a term COVID-22 raising the temperatures among his peers and seniors. This name has raised concerns around the future variants of the coronavirus.

In an interview, Reddy said that the variants could worsen with time and that the Delta variant is "no longer COVID-19", referring to it as COVID-21, while stating that the name of future mutations should be COVID-22.

Talking about what he refers to as COVID-22, Reddy said, “It is the next phase of the pandemic when Beta or Gamma become more infectious or Delta develops escape mutations.”

News outlets picked up the term and splashed headlines warning citizens about COVID-22, causing citizens to worry.

Professor Jeremy Rossman, an honorary senior lecturer in virology at the University of Kent, went to say that the recently coined term is faulty, adding that it is incorrect to label COVID variants in this way and that there is no such thing as COVID-22.

In an interview with the Newsweek, he said, "The criteria for a new variant being called COVID-22 is not defined at present.”

Explaining that variants do not mean a new virus is emerging, He said, “However, this would likely need to be a new species of the virus and not just a new variant. For reference, we only have the one species of COVID-19 at present."

He also said that even with the recent variants, scientists have not identified a genetic mutation that has caused the virus to become an entirely new species.

Rossman added that it's possible we will never end up using terms such as these, even with the Delta variants.

Mark Harris, a professor at the University of Leeds’s School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, agreed, using the term COVID-22 is "unhelpful and inaccurate."

Professor Harris added that efforts should be focused on increasing vaccinations access. He said, “My thoughts mentioned above make it clear that increasing vaccination and access to vaccination is the most important priority.”

August 26, 2021
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