A new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, named C.1.2, was first detected in May in South Africa. Since then, it has been found in seven other countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland, according to a study recently posted as a pre-print which has not been peer-reviewed yet for publication in an academic journal.
This week in South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued an alert about C.1.2 and its lineage because it has been detected at low rates in all provinces in the area. Of genomes that were sequenced, C.1.2 made up about 2 percent between May and August, according to the alert.
The delta variant remains the dominant form of the coronavirus in South Africa, but experts are keeping an eye on C.1.2. It is not yet a variant of concern or interest with the World Health Organization. Experts are paying attention to it because of its similarities to previous variants like delta and its additional mutations.
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“It contains quite a few key mutations that we see in other variants that have gone on to become variants of interest or concern,” says Megan Steain of University of Sydney’s Central Clinical School to The Guardian. “Any time we see those particular mutations come up, we’d like to keep an eye on the variant to see what it’s going to do. These mutations may affect things like whether it evades the immune response, or transmits faster.”
In South Africa, the NICD will continue to monitor the frequency of this variant. “We are being cautious about the implications, while we gather more data to understand virus of this lineage,” they write in the alert.
They continue, “Based on our understanding of the mutations in this lineage partial immune escape may be possible, but despite this, vaccines will still offer high levels of protection against hospitalization and death.”
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