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Difference Between Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta Variants in Coronavirus

The Alpha variant is known as B.1.1.7 and is the first new strain of the originally discovered Covid-19. The Beta variant is a new B.1.351 lineage of the virus. The Gamma variant of Covid-19 is the P.1 variant of the virus and the Delta variant is the B.1.617.2 strain.

What is Alpha variant?


The Alpha variant is a variation of the original Covid-19 that has also been assigned the name, lineage B.1.1.7. 

First discovered:

The Alpha variant is so named because it was the first variant of the original Covid-19 virus that was detected in samples from patients in London, United Kingdom

What is Beta variant?


The Beta variant is also known as B.1.351 lineage of Covid-19. It was the second such variant of the original Covid-19 virus to be detected.

First discovered:

This particular Covid-19 variant was initially noticed by doctors and scientists in South Africa where it appeared in December 2020. The Beta variant then soon spread to the United Kingdom where it was detected in Covid patients towards the latter part of January 2021. 

What is Gamma variant?


The Gamma variant of Covid-19 is also known as the P.1 variant.

First discovered:

The Gamma variant appears to have first come along, or at least become prevalent in people travelling from Brazil. In January 2021, travelers were tested upon entry into Japan, at which time the virus was first noticed. Investigators then surmised that the variant was present in Brazil. This same variant was then also detected in the United States in the same month.

What is Delta variant?


The Delta variant is the B.1.617.2 strain in which the L452R spike protein mutation is present.

First discovered:

This variant was first discovered among sick individuals in the state of Maharashtra, India. The variant subsequently spread to South Africa where it began taking a heavy toll on people in the Gauteng area. It has also been detected in other countries such as the United States, where the effects are greatest in states where many people are unvaccinated.

Difference between Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants in coronavirus?


The Alpha variant is the B.1.1.7 form of the virus. The Beta variant is the B.1.351 strain of the virus. The Gamma variant is the P.1 strain of the virus. The Delta variant is the B.1.617.2 form of the virus.

When it was first detected

The first time the Alpha variant was detected was in December of 2020. The Beta variant was first noted in October 2020, while the Gamma variant was detected in January 2021. The Delta variant is the strain that was first noticed in December 2020.

Where it was first detected

The Alpha variant was first identified in the United Kingdom, while the Beta variant first showed up in South Africa. The Gamma variant was first detected in Brazil and the Delta variant was first detected in India.


The transmissibility of the Alpha variant is anywhere from 40% to 80% greater than the original Covid virus. The transmissibility of the Beta variant is estimated at 50% higher and the increased transmissibility of the Gamma variant ranges from 1.7 to 2.4 times greater. The Delta variant is very much more transmissible (97% higher) than the original Covid-19 virus.

Spike proteins/gene mutations

The N501Y genetic mutation is a feature of the Alpha variant. This mutation as well as the E484K mutation are characteristics of the Beta variant of Covid-19. The N501Y and E484K mutations as well as changes in 10 amino acids of the spike protein are features of the Gamma variant. The L452R spike protein mutation is a trait of the Delta variant.

Table comparing Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants

Summary of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants in coronavirus

  • The Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants are all mutated forms of the coronavirus, Covid-19.
  • The variants are all more transmissible than the originally discovered virus, making contagion rates higher.
  • The effectiveness of vaccines against the different variants may vary but is still recommended in helping reduce severity of illness.

Other FAQ

What’s different about the Delta variant?

The Delta variant is a different form of the Covid-19 compared with other variants since there is a unique change to the spike protein, and it is far more transmissible than earlier variants.

What are the most common symptoms of the Delta variant?

The most common symptoms of the Delta variant are headache, fever, sore throat, and a runny nasal discharge.

What is the variant virus?

A variant virus is a mutated form of the original strain of a particular virus in which, normally proteins on the outer surface have changed due to genetic mutation.

How contagious is Delta variant?

Delta variant is the most contagious of the four common strains, with 97% greater transmissibility than the original Covid.

Can the coronavirus disease spread through feces?

Although the virus can be excreted in feces there has been no scientific evidence of people catching the illness through contact with infected feces.

Why is Delta variant dangerous?

It is easier to catch so more people can rapidly become infected, and it is possibly more dangerous in causing life-threatening illness. The current vaccines are also less effective against the Delta variant than the original Covid-19 virus.

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References :

[0]BBC “What are the India, Brazil, South Africa and UK variants? News. BBC, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55659820

[1]CDC. “About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19​​ .” CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html

[2]Hitchings, Matt DT, et al. "Effectiveness of CoronaVac among healthcare workers in the setting of high SARS-CoV-2 Gamma variant transmission in Manaus, Brazil: A test-negative case-control study." medRxiv (2021).

[3]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/49643893178_91c0b93ca9_b.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50047466323_0368de1d73_b.jpg

[5]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/Coronavirus_SARS-CoV-2.jpg

[6]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3D_medical_animation_coronavirus_structure.jpg

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