Just when the world breathed a little sigh of relief after a prolonged period of living within confinements, stringent protocols and restrictions, thrashing all the hopes of restoring normalcy, a new strain of coronavirus âOmicronâ surfaced with all new sets of speculations and fear for all.
Apart from turning everyone busy in speculating the biological potential of the strain and the probable extent of damages it can cause, the nomenclature of theÂ Omicron variant, which is also known by its more scientific designation B.1.1.529,Â Â has also made news this time as before settling forÂ 'Omicron', World Health Organization (WHO) skipped two other Greek letters.
Here's all about it.
Why Greek letters are used for naming the strains?
In a bid to rule out all the possibilities of confusion regarding the complicated scientific names of the various âvariants of interestâ or âvariants of concernâ, World Health Organization (WHO), the apex global health body, so far has been categorically leaning on Greek letters for the purpose of naming the various strains of of SARS-CoV2.
Why WHO skipped two Greek letters this time?
For some valid reasons, WHO this time, decided to stick to âOmicronâ after skipping two Greek letters ânuâ and âxiâ.
According to WHO, âNuâ could have been confused with the word ânewâ while Xi was not picked up in order to avoid targeting any particular community as itâs a very common surname shared by many Chinese people, in fact including the Chinese President.Â
âTwo letters were skipped â Nu and Xi â because Nu is too easily confounded with ânewâ and XI was not used because it is a common surname and WHO best practices for naming new diseases (developed in conjunction with FAO and OIE back in 2015) suggest avoiding âcausing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groupsâ, the WHO said in a statement.
How so far Greek letters have been used in naming variants?
Apart from ruling out the confusions amongst the scientific names, WHO switched to Greek letters for nomenclature to remove the country names (i.e UK variant, Indian variant etc.) as wellÂ which instigated a lot of name-calling previously.
So far, 12 Greek letters have already been utilized for the nomenclature purpose.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Omicron- these are the currentÂ 'variants of concern' (VOC). while two 'variants of interest' (VOI) are named as Lambda and Mu.Â