A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world looks a lot different than it used to. And so does the coronavirus itself. As it’s infected hundreds of millions of people around the globe, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been in a state of constant change, making small tweaks to its genetic code as it goes along.
New variants have taken over from the virus’s earlier forms — like the highly contagious delta variant that is currently throwing a wrench in our “new normal.” Here, we break down what you need to know about the viral variants sweeping the world. The coronavirus, like other viruses, spreads by hijacking human cells to make copies of itself. But that process isn’t always perfect: Sometimes, the copied versions of the virus have a few typos in their genetic code.
This means the coronavirus is constantly mutating as it spreads.