Another variant of the coronavirus, reported in South Africa, is cause for concern among health experts who are monitoring its potential but say they need to continue gathering information.
The C1.2 variant was first noted in May, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and its partners, which includes most universities in the country. The C1.2 variant is now seen in all South African provinces and it’s been detected in about 2% of cases overall.
That relative frequency remains low but some of the virus mutations are new. “The C.1.2 lineage shares a few common mutations with the Beta and Delta variants (but) the new lineage has a number of additional mutations,” said the NICD.
South Africa continues to run tests to understand what these genetic variations mean, especially with the all-important question of whether or not existing vaccines will continue to work and protect against serious COVID illness and death.
“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 South African government said.
“We expect new variants to continue to emerge wherever the virus is spreading. Vaccination remains critical to protect those in our communities at high risk of hospitalization and death, to reduce strain on the health system, and to help slow transmission.”
So far, the World Health Organization has not identified the C1.2 strain of COVID with the specific status as a variant of concern or variant of interest, although WHO was notified of the new variant in July.
Image: University of Hong Kong file