These Are the 6 Main Strains of Coronavirus You Need to Know About

COVID-19 has mutated into these different strains of the virus.

The mutation of the COVID-19 virus continues to be a source of apprehension, with many people concerned about how the virus will evolve. Much of the fear surrounding COVID-19's mutation is a fear of the unknown. Will the virus become more infectious? Will it present completely different symptoms? As experts watch COVID-19 continue to evolve and spawn new mutations, they've been able to learn more about the virus. In fact, researchers now know that there are currently six main strains of COVID-19 across the globe.

Luckily, COVID-19's mutation rate remains low, according to a July study out of Università di Bologna published by Frontiers in Microbiology. That means the mutation of the virus won't hinder the development of effective vaccines. Researchers examined 48,635 coronavirus genomes from all over the world to map out the spread and mutations of the virus as it traverses continents. These are the six strains the study identified. And for more on COVID's spread, Dr. Fauci Says There's Now Evidence That Coronavirus Spreads This Way.

L strain

People wearing masks while riding the train during the coronavirus pandemic

The L strain is the original strain of COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan in Dec. 2019, according to a Università di Bologna write-up of the study. This strain is slowly disappearing and only accounts for 7 percent of coronavirus cases worldwide—most of which are in Asia—per the study. And for information on the long-term impact of COVID, 60 Percent of COVID Survivors May Be Dealing With This Forever, Study Says.

S strain

Man wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic

The S strain was the first mutation off of the original L strain of the virus. According to the write-up of the study, the S strain first appeared in early 2020. The study found that this strain is responsible for 8 percent of the viruses across the globe, the bulk of which are in the Americas. But although the S strain is declining, it "seems to be still accounting for a significant minority of sequenced genomes, especially in the United States of America and Spain."

V strain

Friends hanging out with masks on during the coronavirus pandemic

Much like the L strain, the study found that the V strain is slowly disappearing. Per the study, this strain first appeared in mid-January around the time the G strain began to appear. Currently, the V strain only accounts for 7 percent of cases worldwide, most of which are in Europe. And for insight on the future of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Says These Are the COVID Numbers We Should See by the Fall.

G strain

Woman wearing a mask while shopping outdoors

According to the study, the G strain—and its mutations—is by far the most widespread strain of the virus. This strain mutated into the GR and GH strains at the end of Feb. 2020. The G strain is most prevalent in Europe and Africa.

"Strain G and its related strains GR and GH are by far the most widespread, representing 74 percent of all gene sequences we analyzed," study coordinator Federico Manuel Giorgi, PhD, said in a statement. "They present four mutations, two of which are able to change the sequence of the RNA polymerase and Spike proteins of the virus. This characteristic probably facilitates the spread of the virus."

GR strain

Crowd of people wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic

The GR strain is the most commonly found strain, accounting for 29 percent of cases in the world, according to the study. The study demonstrated that this strain is most often found in South America and Europe. The GR strain carries "the combination of Spike D614G and Nucleocapsid RG203KR mutations," per the write-up of the study. The "spike" protein change present in the GR strain allows the virus to more readily enter human cells, according to a July study published in Cell. And for a look at where coronavirus is spreading, These States That Contained COVID Are at Risk of Backsliding, Expert Warns.

GH strain

Woman wearing a face mask while waiting for the bus

If you live in the U.S. and have had COVID-19, you most likely had the GH strain—a mutation off of the G strain. According to the study, the GH strain is by far the most prevalent strain in North America. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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