South African researches have detected another new Covid-19 strain, dubbed as C.1.2.
In a study conducted by the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, it is said that it could be associated with increased transmissibility and a resistance to antibodies against the disease.
Nonetheless, the study is currently awaiting peer review as of press time.
The C.1.2 variant is a descendant of the C.1 variant and it was first detected in May and has spread to a majority of South Africa’s provinces as well as seven other countries, including China, Portugal and the U.K.
When compared to C.1 and other Variants of Interest/Concern (VOI/VOC), the C.1.2 variant is highly mutated. They also said it is actually a lot closer to the Lambda variant.
“While the C.1.2 lineage shares a few common mutations with the Beta and Delta variants, the new lineage has a number of additional mutations.”
“Based on our understanding of the mutations in this variant, we suspect that it might be able to partially evade the immune response, but despite this, that vaccines will still offer high levels of protection against hospitalization and death.” the researchers said in the report.
According to the report, of the 63 C.1.2 variant samples, more than 50% showed 14 mutations occurring in the spike regions and they contain spike proteins that allow the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes Covid-19) to penetrate host cells and cause infection.
Despite having such observations, the study suggests that the evolution of the C.1.2 variant is still ongoing, since mutations have been detected in some other sequences as well. This means it hasn’t reached its ‘final’ form yet.
It was said the C.1.2 lineage also has a mutation rate of 41.8 mutations per year. When compared to other existing variants, the mutation rate of C.1.2 is twice as fast. The more cases involving C.1.2 there are, the faster it mutates.
In addition, the researches pointed out that the variant shows the same evolutionary characteristics of the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma VOCs, citing a short evolution period.
Meanwhile, the findings from the South African team have alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) and their Covid-19 technical lead had addressed the research and news of C.1.2 in several statements online yesterday (30 August).
WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove tweeted that there are being just about 100 sequences of the variant having been identified since it was first reported by South Africa in May.
“At this time, C.1.2 does not appear to be upward in circulation, but we need more sequencing to be conducted & shared globally.” she said.
Nonetheless, she believes that the Delta-variant still appears to be the more dominant variant based on available sequences.
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