COVID-19 new variant: C.1.2 detected in South Africa may be more infectious, evade vaccine protection: Study

As per the study, C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year. It is about twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants.

COVID-19 Variant in South Africa
COVID-19 Variant in South Africa

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, has been detected in South Africa and many other nations globally. As per the study, it could be more transmissible and evade protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccines.

Scientists and researchers from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform in South Africa have informed that the potential variant of interest, C.1.2, was first detected in South Africa in May 2021.

They further mentioned that the new variant, C.1.2, has since been found in China Mauritius, the Democratic Republic of Congo, New Zealand, England, Switzerland, and Portugal as of August 13.  

New Variant C.1.2: What do we know?

As per the yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study posted on the preprint repository MedRxiv on August 24, C.1.2 variant has mutated substantially compared to C.1, one of the lineages which had dominated the SARS-CoV-2 infections in the first wave in South Africa.

The new variant C.1.2 has more mutations than other Variants of Concern (VOCs) or Variant of Interest (VOIs) detected worldwide so far.

As per the researchers, 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.

Consistent increase in the number of C.1.2 genomes: Study

The study done by the scientists has found consistent increases in the number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa each month. It increased from 0.2 percent of genomes sequenced in May to 1.6 percent in June and then to 2 percent in July 2021.

The authors of the study have pointed that this is similar to the increases that were seen with the Beta and Delta variants in the country during early detection.

As per the study, C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year. It is about twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants.

Intra-lineage evolution:

Over half of the C.1.2 sequences of having 14 mutations, however, additional variations have been noticed in some of the sequences.

The study noted that though these mutations occur in the majority of C.1.2 viruses, there is an additional variation within the spike region of this lineage which suggests intra-lineage evolution. About 52% of the mutations in the spike region of the C.1.2 sequences have also been previously seen in other VOCs and VOIs.

The spike protein is used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to infect and enter the human cells, and most COVID vaccines target this region.

Mutations with an immune escape from antibodies detected in C.1.2

The mutations Y449H and N440K, which have been associated with the immune escape from certain antibodies, have also been noticed in C.1.2 sequences.

The authors said that while these mutations are not characteristic of current VOCs/VOIs, they have been associated with an escape from certain Class 3 neutralizing bodies.

These mutations together with the changes in other parts of the virus will most likely help the virus evade antibodies as well as immune response, including in the patients who have already developed antibodies for Alpha or Beta Variants.


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