Coronavirus Variant Tracker

Each coronavirus contains nearly 30,000 letters of RNA. This genetic information allows the virus to infect cells and hijack them to make new viruses.

Diagram of the

CORONAVIRUS

GENOME

CORONAVIRUS

RNA genome

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Diagram of the

CORONAVIRUS

GENOME

RNA

genome

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

RNA

genome

Diagram of the

CORONAVIRUS

GENOME

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

As an infected cell builds new coronaviruses, it occasionally makes tiny copying errors called mutations. Scientists can track mutations as they are passed down through a lineage, which is a branch of the viral family tree.

A group of coronaviruses that share the same inherited set of distinctive mutations is called a variant. If enough mutations accumulate in a lineage, the viruses may evolve clear-cut differences in how they function. These lineages come to be known as strains. Covid-19 is caused by a coronavirus strain known as SARS-CoV-2.

Over the course of the pandemic, a number of variants of SARS-CoV-2 have arisen. Some of them are raising worries that they may draw out the pandemic or make vaccines less effective.

News and updates
Feb. 7 South Africa stops using AstraZeneca’s vaccine against the B.1.351 variant.
Feb. 7 The B.1.1.7 variant is doubling every 10 days in the United States.

Variants of concern

Lineage Variant name Status
B.1.1.7 Variant of Concern 202012/01, or 501Y.V1 Emerged in Britain in December and is roughly 50 percent more infectious. Now detected in over 70 countries and 33 states.
B.1.351 501Y.V2 Emerged in South Africa in December. Reduces the effectiveness of some vaccines.
P.1 501Y.V3 Emerged in Brazil in late 2020. Has mutations similar to B.1.351.

Mutations that may help the coronavirus spread

Lineage Mutation Status
B.1 D614G Appeared in early 2020 and spread around the world.
Several N501Y A defining mutation in several lineages, including B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1. Helps the virus bind more tightly to human cells.
Several E484K Appears in several lineages. May help the virus avoid some kinds of antibodies.
Several L452R Increasingly common in California, but not yet shown to be more infectious.

Other variants in the news

Lineage Variant name Status
B.1.427, B.1.429 CAL.20C Carries the L452R mutation. Common in California, but not yet shown to be more infectious.

Variants of Concern

Coronaviruses that appear to be more infectious than other circulating coronaviruses.

The B.1.1.7 Lineage

This group of coronaviruses came to light in Britain, where it was named Variant of Concern 202012/01. The variant is also known as 20I/501Y.V1, or simply called B.1.1.7.

Coronaviruses from the B.1.1.7 lineage are thought to be roughly 50 percent more infectious. After its discovery in December, it quickly emerged in other countries and surged at an exponential rate. It is doubling in the United States every ten days. Preliminary evidence suggests that B.1.1.7 is about 35 percent more deadly than other variants. On the other hand, vaccines appear to work well against it.

B.1.1.7 appears to be more infectious thanks to several mutations in its spike protein, which the coronavirus uses to attach to cells.

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

Mutations in the

B.1.1.7

LINEAGE

H69-V70

deletion

B.1.1.7

CORONAVIRUS

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Mutations in the

B.1.1.7

LINEAGE

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

S235F mutation

Spike

protein

Y144/145 deletion

H69-V70 deletion

Mutations in the

B.1.1.7

LINEAGE

ORF1b

protein

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

ORF1a

protein

KEY MUTATIONS IN B.1.1.7

Mutations in the spike protein include:

N501Y, which helps the virus latch on more tightly to human cells. But the mutation is not likely to help the virus evade current vaccines.

P681H, which may help infected cells create new spike proteins more efficiently.

— The H69–V70 and Y144/145 deletions, which alter the shape of the spike and may help it evade some antibodies.

Key mutations in

the B.1.1.7 spike

Key mutations in

the B.1.1.7 spike

It takes three spike proteins to form one spike, so each mutation appears in three places:

Key mutations in

the B.1.1.7 spike

(top view)

Key mutations in

the B.1.1.7 spike

(top view)

For more on the B.1.1.7 mutations, see: Inside the B.1.1.7 Coronavirus Variant.

WHERE B.1.1.7 HAS BEEN FOUND

The variant was first detected in the United Kingdom in December, and a look back at previous samples found it as early as Sept. 20.

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.1.7 detected,

typically in a traveler

Local transmission

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.1.7 detected

Local transmission

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.1.7 detected

Local transmission

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.1.7 detected

Local transmission

B.1.1.7 has now been detected in over 70 countries. It was first reported in the United States in January, and has now reached at least 33 states.

B.1.1.7 detected

More than 100 cases

B.1.1.7 detected

More than 100 cases

B.1.1.7 detected

More than 100 cases

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that B.1.1.7 could become the predominant source of all infections in the United States by March.

RECENT COVERAGE OF B.1.1.7

The B.1.351 Lineage

A variant known as 20H/501Y.V2, from the B.1.351 lineage of coronaviruses, was first identified in South Africa in December.

Scientists are concerned about the variant because clinical trials of vaccines are showing that they offer less protection against B.1.351 than other variants. People who recover from other variants may not be able to fend off B.1.351 because their antibodies won’t grab the viruses tightly. The F.D.A. is preparing a plan for updating vaccines if the variant surges in the United States.

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

Mutations in the

B.1.351

LINEAGE

B.1.351

CORONAVIRUS

K1655N

mutation

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Mutations in the

B.1.351

LINEAGE

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

K1655N

mutation

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

T205I mutation

Spike

protein

Mutations in the

B.1.351

LINEAGE

ORF1b

protein

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

ORF1a

protein

KEY MUTATIONS IN B.1.351

Mutations near the tip of the spike protein include:

N501Y, which helps the virus latch on more tightly to human cells. This mutation also appears in the B.1.1.7 and P.1 lineages.

K417N, which also helps the virus bind more tightly to human cells.

E484K, which may help the virus evade some kinds of antibodies.

Key mutations in

the B.1.351 spike

(top view)

Key mutations in

the B.1.351 spike

(top view)

WHERE B.1.351 HAS BEEN FOUND

The variant spread from South Africa into neighboring countries, and was detected in the United States in January. It has since spread to at least 24 countries.

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.351 detected,

typically in a traveler

Local transmission

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.351 detected

Local transmission

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.351 detected

Local transmission

SOUTH

AFRICA

B.1.351 detected

Local transmission

It has been detected in three states: Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia.

B.1.351 lineage detected

B.1.351 lineage detected

B.1.351 lineage detected

RECENT COVERAGE OF B.1.351

The P.1 Lineage

A variant known as 20J/501Y.V3 is from the P.1 lineage, an offshoot of the larger B.1.1.28 lineage.

The variant was first reported in Japan, in four people who contracted P.1 on a trip to Brazil. The lineage emerged in late 2020 in Manaus, the largest city in Brazil’s Amazon region. It quickly became the predominant variant there and in several other South American cities.

P.1 is a close relative of the B.1.351 lineage, and it has some of the same mutations on the coronavirus spike protein. It may be able to overcome the immunity developed after infection by other variants.

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

Mutations in the

P.1 LINEAGE

L18F

T20N

P26S

P.1

CORONAVIRUS

K1795Q

mutation

28269-73

insertion

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Mutations in the

P.1 LINEAGE

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

L18F

T20N

P26S

K1795Q

mutation

28269-73

insertion

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

P80R mutation

28269-73 insertion

Spike

protein

ORF1b

protein

Mutations in the

P.1 LINEAGE

SGF 3675-3677

deletion

ORF1a

protein

KEY MUTATIONS IN P.1

Key mutations in the spike protein are similar to those in the B.1.351 lineage, although they arose independently:

N501Y, which helps the virus latch on more tightly to human cells. This mutation also appears in the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 lineages.

K417T, which is the same site as the K417N mutation in the B.1.351 lineage. It may also help the virus latch on tighter.

E484K, which may help the virus evade some kinds of antibodies.

Key mutation

in the P.1 spike

(top view)

Key mutations

in the P.1 spike

(top view)

WHERE P.1 HAS BEEN FOUND

P.1 was discovered in December and reached the United States in January, but it may have been circulating as early as October in Manaus, Brazil. It has now spread to several countries.

P.1 detected,

typically in a traveler

Local transmission

P.1 detected

Local transmission

P.1 detected

Local transmission

P.1 detected

Local transmission

P.1 has been detected in two states: Minnesota and Oklahoma.

P.1 lineage detected

P.1 lineage detected

P.1 lineage detected

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MANAUS AND P.1

Mutations of Concern

Single mutations that may make the coronavirus more infectious, or help it avoid antibodies.

The D614G Spike Mutation

The D614G mutation emerged in eastern China early in the pandemic and then quickly spread around the world, displacing other coronaviruses that did not have the mutation.

Location of the

D614G

MUTATION

CORONAVIRUS

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Location of the

D614G

MUTATION

Location of the

D614G

MUTATION

Spike

protein

The D614G mutation is thought to make the coronavirus more infections, but it does not appear to make the disease more severe or help the virus escape vaccines.

The D614G

spike mutation

The D614G

spike mutation

D614G is so widespread that it has been omitted from other graphics on this page.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF D614G

The N501Y Spike Mutation

The N501Y mutation arose independently in several variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1 lineages.

Location of the

N501Y

MUTATION

CORONAVIRUS

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Location of the

N501Y

MUTATION

Location of the

N501Y

MUTATION

Spike

protein

The mutation is near the tip of the coronavirus spike, where it seems to change the shape of the protein to be a tighter fit with human cells.

The N501Y

spike mutation

(top view)

The N501Y

spike mutation

(top view)

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF N501Y

The E484K Spike Mutation

The E484K mutation arose independently in multiple lineages, including B.1.351 and P.1. Scientists are also concerned that the mutation was recently found in some samples from the B.1.1.7 lineage from Britain.

Location of the

E484K

MUTATION

CORONAVIRUS

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Location of the

E484K

MUTATION

Location of the

E484K

MUTATION

Spike

protein

The mutation occurs near the top of the coronavirus spike, where it alters the shape of the protein. This change may help the spikes evade some types of coronavirus antibodies.

The E484K

spike mutation

(top view)

The E484K

spike mutation

(top view)

WHERE E484K HAS BEEN FOUND

E484K has been found in Brazil, Britain, the United States, Canada and Argentina.

RECENT COVERAGE OF E484K

The L452R Spike Mutation

The L452R mutation is not common in the United States, but it has recently spread in California, especially in the Los Angeles area.

Location of the

L452R

MUTATION

CORONAVIRUS

Start of

genome

30,000

RNA letters

Location of the

L452R

MUTATION

Location of the

L452R

MUTATION

Spike

protein

The mutation appears in several lineages, and was first observed in Denmark in March. It’s possible that the L452R mutation gives the coronavirus an advantage at spreading over other variants, but the results of experiments that will demonstrate that have yet to come.

The L452R

spike mutation

(top view)

The L452R

spike mutation

(top view)

WHERE L452R HAS BEEN FOUND

Roughly 45 percent of current samples in California show this mutation.

RECENT COVERAGE OF L452R

Other Variants in the News

These variants have not yet been shown to be more infectious.

The CAL.20C Variant

A variant discovered in California, called CAL.20C, surged in late 2020. The variant spans the B.1.427 and B.1.429 lineages, and carries the L452R mutation listed above. But it’s not yet clear whether it is more infectious.

WHERE CAL.20C HAS BEEN FOUND

By early February, the variant was found in more than half of samples tested in Los Angeles.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF CAL.20C

Sources: Bedford Lab, University of Washington; Andrew Rambaut et al. and Nuno R. Faria et al., Virological; Houriiyah Tegally et al., medRxiv; Paul A. Offit et al., Journal of the American Medical Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; GISAID; SARS-CoV-2 lineages. Spike protein model from Ward Lab, Scripps Research. Cahill-Keyes map projection by Gene Keyes.

Tracking the Coronavirus

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