South African scientists detect new coronavirus variant, says monitoring in progress


A new corona virus variant with multiple mutations has been detected by South African Scientists.

However, the scientists say they are yet to establish whether it is more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection.

The variant, known as C.1.2, was flagged last week by the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation and Sequencing Platform in a preprint study that has yet to be peer-reviewed.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the new variant was only present at very low levels and that it was too early to predict how it might evolve.

While the majority of South Africa’s coronavirus cases are currently caused by the Delta variant – first detected in India – C.1.2 caught scientists’ attention because its mutation is almost twice as fast as observed in other global variants.

Its frequency remains relatively low, however, and it has so far been detected in less than 3 percent of genomes sequenced since it was first picked up in May – although this has increased from 0.2 percent to 2 percent last month.

“At this stage, we do not have experimental data to confirm how it reacts in terms of sensitivity to antibodies,” NICD researcher Penny Moore said during a virtual press briefing.

“[But] we have considerable confidence that the vaccines that are being rolled out in South Africa will continue to protect us against severe illness and death,” she added.

So far C.1.2 has been detected in all nine provinces of South Africa, as well as in other parts of the world including China, Mauritius, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

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