A new Covid-19 variant, C.1.2 strain, was first detected in May by South African scientists. The variant appears to have multiple mutations but details on the virus are still uncertain.
According to scientists, C.1.2 possesses mutations within the genome similar to those seen in variants of interest, like Delta, but at a relatively low rate.
JOHANNESBURG — The variant “has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South African and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania,” according to research which is yet to be peer-reviewed.
It contains many mutations associated in other variants with increased transmissibility and reduced sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies, but they occur in a different mix and scientists
are not yet sure how they affect the behavior of the virus.
Laboratory tests are underway to establish how well the variant is neutralized by antibodies.
Meanwhile, the variant has not yet been listed as a variant of interest or concern by the World Health Organization. The frequency of C.1.2 and its behavior is still being monitored. Tests are still under way on the impact of the mutations the variant possesses on transmissibility and vaccine resistance. As of the moment, the variant has not satisfied the WHO criteria to qualify as a ‘variant of concern’ or ‘variant of interest’.
Why then was an alert issued?
It’s because of the particular mutations that C.1.2 contains, says Dr Megan Steain, a virologist and lecturer in immunology and infectious diseases with the University of Sydney’s Central Clinical School.
“It contains quite a few key mutations that we see in other variants that have gone on to become variants of interest or concern,” says the virologist.
“These mutations may affect things like whether it evades the immune response, or transmits faster.”
Laboratory tests to see whether the virus is fitter or weak will take some time.
However, there is also a chance the variant dies out. According to Dr Steain, Covid-19 variants emerge all of time and many of them disappear before they can become a real problem. Most variants are very fragile.
Are vaccines effective against C.1.2?
“So we think, perhaps, the serum won’t neutralize as well as it would against an ancestral strain. But until we actually do those experiments it’s speculative really.
“We’ve got to bear in mind that the vaccine so far looks like its holding up really, really well in terms of preventing severe infection and hospitalizations and deaths from variants. They’re really good at preventing that,” says Dr Steain. (HMP/JuanManila)