Scientists are concerned about its impact on vaccines.
A new variant of COVID identified in South Africa, known as the C. 1.2 strain, has attracted the attention of scientists because it has mutations in the genome similar to those observed in such variants of the coronavirus as Delta.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases in South Africa issued a warning about the “C.1.2 line of origin,” saying that this variant was detected in all country provinces but with a relatively low frequency, The Guardian writes.
The C.1.2 strain was first detected in May, according to a warning from South African scientists, but Delta is still the dominant variant, spreading both in South Africa and around the world.
In the preprint of an article about a new variant of the coronavirus, it is said that C.1.2 “was found in most of the provinces of South Africa and seven other countries covering Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.”
The C.1.2 line has attracted the attention of scientists because, despite its low level in the population, it has mutations in the genome similar to those observed in the so-called “interesting” and “worrying” variants of COVID, such as the Delta variant, as well as some additional mutations.
So, what do we know about the new option, and how should we be concerned?
The World Health Organization has not yet indicated C.1.2 as an option of interest or concern. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases in South Africa continues to monitor the frequency of C.1.2 and study its behavior. Trials to assess the effect of mutations on infectivity and resistance to vaccines are still ongoing. So far, the virus does not meet the WHO criteria for qualifying it as a “variant of concern” or “variant of interest.”
“Worrisome” variants, such as Delta, are those that demonstrate increased transmissibility, virulence, or a change in the clinical manifestations of the disease, as well as a decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures.
“Of interest” is variants of the coronavirus that cause transmission of infection in the community in several clusters, which have been detected in many countries but have not yet necessarily turned out to be more dangerous or transmissible.
A virologist and lecturer in immunology and infectious diseases at the Central Clinical School of the University of Sydney, Dr. Megan Stein, said that scientists ‘ concern about the new variant is related to special mutations contained in C.1.2.
“It contains quite a few key mutations that we see in other variants that have subsequently become variants of interest or concern,” says Dr. Stein. – Every time we see these mutations, we would like to monitor the variant to see what it will do. These mutations can affect things like evading the immune response or more accelerated transmission.”
According to the expert, scientists will need to conduct laboratory tests to conclude the virus.
Is there a chance that this new variant of the coronavirus will die out? Yes, writes The Guardian. COVID-19 variants appear all the time, and many of them disappear before they can become a real problem. Many variants of viruses are very fragile.
“The C.1.2 should be good enough, well – adapted and quite fast enough to bypass the Delta at this stage,” says Megan Stein. – I think we are still at the stage when it can disappear; the prevalence is really low. We’ve seen this with beta and other worrisome variants where it seemed like there might be a problem; they even had areas where they were transmitted and spread pretty well. But over time, they really did not take root, and they were overtaken by other options that can be transmitted faster. And so they die out. This can still happen with C.1.2 as well.”
Will vaccines against C.1.2 be effective? “We can make an educated guess based on some of the mutations it has, in the sense that it is similar to what we have seen in other variants, such as Beta as well as Delta,” says Dr. Stein. – Therefore, we think that perhaps the serum does not neutralize and against the hereditary strain. But until we actually do these experiments, it will actually be a speculative assumption. We must remember that the vaccine still looks very good in preventing severe infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from varieties. They really know how to prevent this.”
The expert believes that there is no need to panic about the new version of the coronavirus. “However, it is important to keep an eye on the other options that exist, and just watch and study how they will act.”