General questions

Can a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus cause more severe disease?


Viruses mutate continuously and this can lead to new variants. Of the thousands of variants that are emerging on the SARS-CoV-2 genomes, it is reasonable to expect that some variants can eventually achieve biological advantages and be more transmissible, clinically aggressive or resistant to treatments or vaccines. Randomness and social behavior can also explain the predominance of a particular strain.

While mutations of SARS-CoV-2 are expected, it is important to continue to monitor the public health implications of new virus variants. WHO routinely assesses if variants of SARS-CoV-2 result in changes in transmissibility, clinical presentation and severity, or if they impact on countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Meanwhile, current disease control measures recommended by WHO continue to be effective and should be adapted in response to increasing disease incidence, whether associated with a new variant or not.