Explained: What Is the New C.1.2 COVID Variant? How Infectious Is It?
South African scientists have identified a new variant of coronavirus, known an C.1.2., that has a concerning number of mutations.
C.1.2 has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South Africa and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania, the scientists said in the yet-to-be peer-reviewed study published in MedRxiv.
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.
What is C.1.2?
C.1.2 has evolved from C.1, one of the lineages that dominated the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections in South Africa and was last detected in January 2021.
Where has it been detected?
This lineage was first identified in May 2021.
C.1.2 has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South Africa and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
How is C.1.2 compared to other variants of concern?
The emergence of C.1.2 was associated with an increased substitution rate, as was previously observed with the other of variants of concern (VOCs) – Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
C.1.2 contains multiple substitutions and deletions within the spike protein, which have been observed in other variants of concern.
It is also associated with increased transmissibility and reduced neutralization sensitivity, the scientists said.
Why is it a big cause for concern?
This lineage has an accumulation of mutations or a constellation of mutations, and is hence a cause for greater concern.
C.1.2 is highly mutated beyond C.1 and all other variants of concern and variants of interest globally with between 44 to 59 mutations away from the original Wuhan virus, the scientists said.
C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year. This is approximately 1.7-fold faster than the current global rate and 1.8-fold faster than the initial estimate of SARS-CoV-2 evolution, the scientists said.
So, has it been listed as a variant of interest or concern?
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases is still examining its behaviour and monitoring its frequency, The Guardian reported.
Tests are also being done to assess the impact of the mutations on infectiousness and vaccine resistance.
Thus, C.1.2 does not yet qualify the World Health Organisation (WHO's) criteria to classify as a “variant of concern” or “variant of interest”.
However, an alert was issued because of the particular mutations it contains which are seen in other variants of concern.
(With inputs from The Guardian.)
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