© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

VIDEO: An Easy Way To Understand Coronavirus Variants — Using Puzzle Pieces

When will the pandemic end? How many more COVID-19 waves will the U.S. go through? Will we go back to "normal" in the fall? All these questions depend largely a one key factor: how the variants behave.

As the virus spreads around the world, it mutates — which all viruses do. Along the way, variant strains emerge. Some of these variants are more effective at infecting humans and spread more quickly. Some variants may be better at evading the immune system and are more likely to cause a second bout of COVID-19.

Variants with these properties have caused massive waves of COVID in Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom — and now India. And in our interconnected world, they are already spreading to many other countries.

How does a mutated version of the virus improve its chances of being transmitted to humans? How does it avoid recognition by the immune system? If you imagine viruses as puzzle pieces, as this video does, that can help explain what's happening when a coronavirus variant comes into contact with human cells.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michaeleen Doucleff, PhD, is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk. For nearly a decade, she has been reporting for the radio and the web for NPR's global health outlet, Goats and Soda. Doucleff focuses on disease outbreaks, cross-cultural parenting, and women and children's health.
WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.