Coronavirus Variants – What They Mean

A very good speaker you can understand with practical examples. Includes timed topics so you can find what you want to learn more about. 2-8-21 Video 36 minutes.

2021 has brought news of emerging SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants that increase transmissibility. Will they diminish vaccine efficacy and lead us to lose pandemic control? University of Michigan’s Adam Lauring, MD, Ph.D., a molecular virologist who uses evolutionary theory to study viral transmission and pathogenesis, joins JAMA’s Q&A series to explain the variants and what they mean for public health. Recorded February 4, 2021.

Related article Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean? Technical but understandable. Many details. Co-written by Dr. Lauring

Timed topics discussed in this interview:

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Protect yourself from the new Variants

How to protect yourself from the new coronavirus strains Video 6 minutes
1-28-21 Two of my favorite experts: Dr. Linsey Marr at Virginia Tech is an expert on airborne transmission. Erin Bromage, PhD is a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology.

Lots of good tips on how to get better masks. There is a big difference between the quality of the mask being worn and the ability to filter out the aerosols. The goal is Protect yourself from the new Variants.

Full transcript and audio

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Fauci on new vaccines and variants 1-29-21

Fauci on the efficacy of new vaccines and preparing for coronavirus variants 6 min. 34 seconds 1-29-21

The drive to get more coronavirus vaccines into more arms is gaining momentum, with two new COVID vaccines possibly accelerating the effort. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH and a top adviser to President Biden on the pandemic, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the efficacy of the new vaccines and preparing for the virus variants.

Full transcript and Audio

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Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

All viruses mutate. As a virus replicates, its genes undergo random “copying errors” (i.e. genetic mutations).  The more the virus spreads, the more mutations.

Variant is a known virus that has developed a “specific group of mutations” that causes the variant to behave differently than that of the strain it originated from.

1-29-21 Latest news on Variants and New Vaccines – Ex CDC Director Tom Friedman 13 minute Podcast. very good explanations.

1-20-21 Excellent podcast What You Need to Know About the Variants 49 minutes, but worth the time. The best variant interview I have ever heard. Understandable and very well done. “So-called UK and South African variants to virologist Angela Rasmussen and evolutionary biologist Paul Turner. You’ll get answers about what the variants mean for the vaccines, how they affect kids, how to adjust your behavior in response to them, and much more.” Plus lots of references.

1-18-21 Good article, These coronavirus variants are keeping scientists awake at night List of many variants being studied.

1-15-21 Good article from Washingon Post- CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant to become dominant in U.S.

We are all worried about the SARS CoV-2 mutations, especially those that make it 50% or more transmissible. (This estimate seems to be going up almost every week.). All viruses mutate, including the flu viruses. The more a virus multiplies and spreads, the more errors in replication, making more variants. Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

I listen to many podcasts, trying to find those that are not too basic or too technical. Below are four podcasts that I recommend. I preferred the first one and the last one. See which ones you like.

1-7-21 When the Virus Mutates. Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction. 15 minutes.

The most understandable and practical explanation I have heard for what it means for you. One of my favorite podcasts, Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent.

New variants of the coronavirus are circulating around the globe and causing some concern among experts. In particular, one variant, B.1.1.7, is more easily spread from one person to another.  This new variant has already been identified in several states in the US. To understand how this will affect the pandemic, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks with virologist Angela Rasmussen. 


1-11-21 A Pandemic Update: The Variant and the Vaccine Rollout. 34 minutes (first 15 minutes on variants)

Very easy to understand. Non-technical speakers. Transcript and reference. Click here to read.

The first 15 minutes are about variants, with some discussion of other virus issues. The rest is about vaccine rollout issues. Some text discussion and references, including the estimate of about a 45% increase in transmission. From the New York Times The Daily Podcast. Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

Understandable, non-technical speakers: Carl Zimmer, a science writer for The New York Times, and Abby Goodnough, a national health care correspondent for The  Times.

The two podcasts below are from Coronavirus (Covid-19) Q&A JAMA Network, one of my favorite Covid podcasts. The podcasts are physicians and the general public and are more technical than the two podcasts above.


1-8-21 Understanding the New SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Found in England

JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) 14 minutes Expert speaker, but understandable. The “big picture”.

The overall picture, what it means. Some technical terms but not too many. What to do now, for the public and clinicians.

Speaker Gregory Armstrong, MD, director of the Advanced Molecular Detection Program for the CDC, explains what is currently known about the new mutations of SARS-CoV-2. Topics include where it came from, why more transmissible,

2-14-19 Related article. Next-Generation Sequencing of Infectious Pathogens The speaker is one of the authors: Marta Gwinn, MD, MPH1; Duncan MacCannell, PhD2; Gregory L. Armstrong, MD2. Technical, but can help understand what the speaker is talking about. Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

1-4-21 Understanding SARS-CoV-2 Genetic Variants


41 minutes Excellent understandable expert speaker. Adam Lauring, MD, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan Division of Infectious Diseases, an expert on RNA viruses’ evolutionary biology, explains the new genetic variants recently found in SARS-CoV-2 and their importance.

Technical speaker, but very good at explaining, using practical examples, why viruses mutate. Very interesting, how and why vaccines mutate.

For example, explains “founder” populations, where genes come from, using the first Native Americans, who crossed the Bering Strait to come to North America. The genes they had were passed on to descendants over many generations. A Covid example is someone (a founder) coming from England to the U.S. starting Covid to spread.

1-6-21 Related article discussing some of the topics in the podcast, but much more technical. It can help us understand the topics in more detail.: Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean? Written by the speaker and a co-author.

SARS-CoV-19, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is a very efficient virus

Viruses are not alive. Their only reason for existing is to reproduce and spread to as many hosts as possible. All viruses mutate. Some mutations are very successful. All viruses mutate, including SARS-CoV-19. UPDATED 2-11-21

Every time a virus copies itself (replicates) it may mutate. When the virus is spreading widely, the mutations increase. This means more opportunities for the virus to become “better” at infecting us. The U.K. virus is spreading widely in the U.S. and may be mutating to become more hazardous to humans. The “original” virus may also be mutating.

Both the UK and South African viruses are in my county in the Bay Area. Almost everyone has been wearing face masks since April. Stanford University is doing the testing here. They are probably spreading rapidly in many other states, but there is limited testing to detect them.

2-11-21 UPDATE Coronavirus Variants – What They Mean Video, 36 minutes. February 11, 2021. An excellent expert speaker (virologist) you can understand, with practical examples. Includes timed topics so you can find what you want to learn more about. 2-8-21 Video 36 minutes.

1-25-21 UPDATE: Virus Mutations (variants)

Preliminary research suggests the United Kingdom Covid mutation (variant) makes the SARS-CoV-2 virus is over 50% transmissible. Per Dr. Fauci, it may cause more deaths. We don’t know where it is spreading in the U.S. due to a lack of genomic surveillance to identify what was causing people to get infected“original” Covid or a variant.

1-18-21 Excellent podcast What You Need to Know About the Variants 49 minutes, but worth the time. The best variant interview I have ever heard. Understandable and very well done. “So-called” UK and South African variants with virologist Angela Rasmussen and evolutionary biologist Paul Turner.

In the United Kingdom, about 10% of the virus samples from infected persons are genetically sequenced. In the U.S., about 0.3% of virus samples are sequenced. Biden plans on increasing this.

This is a new (novel) type of coronavirus. Humans have no immunity. Every human can be infected. We do not yet know if any of us has “natural” immunity (cannot get infected).

The virus kills a relatively low percentage of people (estimated around 1%), compared with Ebola at 50%. About 6.5% died in the 1908 Spanish flu.

With Covid, more people are left alive to infect. It is easily transmitted through the air (respiratory), much more efficient than requiring close physical contact (Ebola), and mostly kills old people, especially over 80. More younger humans are left alive to infect.

About 50% (estimate has varied over time) of people infected with the virus have no symptoms (asymptomatic) and can spread the virus. This is unusual for a virus and greatly increases its ability to expand into many humans.

Emerging research suggests that people may actually be most contagious during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms. It can take between 1-14 days for COVID symptoms to show up. More time for infected people to spread the virus and infect others.

It “waits” for humans to help it expand by leaving their homes, not using face masks or doing physical distancing, crowding inside rooms with lots of unmasked people and poor ventilation, not washing hands, etc.

If you are infected no one knows if you will be immune or for how long. Some viruses, such as in the seasonal flu, regularly mutate, so humans have relativity short immunity time.

On the plus side, it is a “starter” virus, much less deadly than SARS, with a 10% death rate or Ebola at 40%. It is less contagious than measles, which has very tiny droplets, that can remain suspended in the air for up to two hours after someone with measles has left an area.