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South African Scientists Issue Alert Over New COVID Variant C.1.2.

On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa issued an alert about the “C.1.2 lineage” of the Coronavirus, saying it had been detected in all provinces in the country, but at a relatively low rate.

C.1.2 was first detected in May, the alert said, but Delta is still the dominant variant spreading in South Africa and the world. A pre-print, non-peer-reviewed paper published about the variant said C.1.2 “has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South Africa and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania”.

The C.1.2 lineage has drawn the attention of scientists because, despite its low rate in the population, it possesses mutations within the genome similar to those seen in variants of interest and variants of concern, like the Delta variant, as well as some additional mutations. Variants of concern, such as Delta, are those that show increased transmissibility, virulence, or change in clinical disease, and a decreased effectiveness of public health and social measures.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases is continuing to monitor the frequency of C.1.2 and examine how it behaves. Tests to assess the impact of the mutations it possesses on infectiousness and vaccine resistance are underway. So far, the virus has not fulfilled the WHO criteria to qualify as a “variant of concern” or “variant of interest”. Variants of interest are those shown to cause community transmission in multiple clusters, and which have been detected in multiple countries, but have not yet necessarily proven to be more virulent or transmissible. The alert was issued because of the particular mutations that C.1.2 contains, including a few key mutations that have been seen in other variants that have gone on to become variants of interest or concern.

While there is a chance this variant might die out, as COVID19 variants emerge all of the time and many of them disappear before they can become a real problem. Many virus variants are very fragile. The key mutants are the ones that survive the changes and continue, and start to overgrow the variants of the past, which is what happened with the Delta Variant.



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