Scientists around the world are on the lookout for new COVID-19 variants, which are caused by mutations of the virus when its replication machinery makes an error. Experts say these mutations and the new variants are normal and to be expected.
In recent months, so-called variants of concern have been identified in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and in the U.S. And it's not a coincidence they're appearing in these countries, which have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of COVID-19 cases.
Finding variants by screening COVID-19-infected patients with genomic sequencing is the easy part. The difficult part is then figuring out what these mutations mean. Researchers are studying the variants daily to gain a better understanding of their differences.
While we still don't know a lot about how the mutations in these variants change the virus, we do have evidence that some might be more transmissible.