A new variant of Covid-19 has been detected in South Africa and many other countries globally.
According to the latest study, C.1.2 could be more transmissible and can evade protection provided by vaccines.
The potential variant of interest, C.1.2, was first detected in the country in May this year.
Scientists from National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) in South Africa said, “C.1.2 has mutated substantially compared to C.1, one of the lineages which dominated the SARS-CoV-2 infections in the first wave in South Africa.”
C.1.2 has since been found in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, England, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland as of August 13, they said.
The study found consistent increases in the number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa each month, rising from 0.2 per cent of genomes sequenced in May to 1.6 per cent in June and then to 2 per cent in July.
“This is similar to the increases seen with the Beta and Delta variants in the country during early detection,” the authors of the study said.
C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year, which is about twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants, they said.
Over half of the C.1.2 sequences have 14 mutations, but additional variations have been noticed in some of the sequences.
The new variant has more mutations than other variants of concern (VOCs) or variants of interest (VOIs) detected worldwide so far, the researchers said.
They noted that the number of available sequences of C.1.2 may be an underrepresentation of the spread and frequency of the variant in South Africa and around the world.
“Though these mutations occur in the majority of C.1.2 viruses, there is additional variation within the spike region of this lineage, suggesting ongoing intra-lineage evolution,” the authors of the study noted.
About 52 per cent of the mutations in the spike region of the C.1.2 sequences have previously been seen in other VOCs and VOIs.
The spike protein is used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to infect and enter human cells, and most vaccines target this region.