South African scientists said they have identified a new coronavirus variant that has a worrying number of mutations.
The so-called C.1.2. variant was first identified in May in the South African provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng, where Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria are located, the scientists said in a research paper. As of August 13, it had been found in six of South Africa’s nine provinces, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Portugal, New Zealand and Switzerland.
The mutations on the virus “are associated with increased transmissibility” and an increased ability to evade antibodies, the scientists said. “It is important to emphasize this lineage given the constellation of mutations involved.”
Changes in the virus have spawned successive waves of the coronavirus, with the delta variant, first found in India, now driving up the infection rate around the world. Mutations are first classified as interesting variants by the World Health Organization. Once determined to be more serious or transmissible, they are referred to as variants of care.
C.1.2. evolved from C.1., a lineage of the virus that dominated infections in the first wave of the virus in South Africa in mid-2020. It has between 44 and 59 mutations of the original virus detected in Wuhan in China.
The research was published by South African groups, including the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, known as Krisp, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
In May, the variant accounted for 0.2% of the genomes sequenced in the country. That rose to 1.6% in June and 2% in July.
“We are currently assessing the impact of this variant on antibody neutralization” in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, the scientists said.
Results are expected within a week, Tulio de Oliveira, Krisp’s director, said at an immunology conference Monday.
“It’s only been detected in about 100 genomes, a very low number,” he said. “It’s still a very small percentage, but again, we’re really watching that. It has all the hallmarks of immune escape.”
South African scientists also discovered the beta variant in 2020. They have emphasized that while the country’s advanced ability to sequence the virus’ genomes allows for the identification of new strains, they may have originated elsewhere.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)