The variant, known as C.1.2, was first identified in May 2021 and has since been found in England, China, Portugal, Switzerland and New Zealand.
A new preprint study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases says the new variant, believed to have evolved from C.1, has “concerning constellations of mutations”.
The C.1.2 variant was first identified in South Africa in May 2021. Picture: Getty Images
“C.1.2 is highly mutated beyond C.1 and all other VOCs (Variants of Concern) and VOIs (Variants of Interest) globally with between 44-59 mutations away from the original Wuhan Hu-1 virus,” the study wrote.
“We are currently assessing the impact of this variant on antibody neutralisation following SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa.”
Epidemiologist Eric Ding says there are concerns the new variant could be “more infectious and evade vaccines”.
“C.1.2 also has mutation rate that is nearly **twice as fast** as the rate of other variants,” he tweeted.
“What does that mean? It means that the C.1.2 variant has somehow mutated so fast and far that it is now the FURTHEST MUTATED variant found to date! It has mutated the greatest genetic distance from the original Wuhan 1.0 strain – and implies potential troubles for 1.0 vaccines.”
He added: “Delta came from India (with very few vaccines but high infection rates) and so did C.1.2 from South Africa which also has a very low 8 per cent fully vaccinated rate, but large past waves” – warning super variants were likely to emerge from low vaccinated countries.
“For those claiming vaccines are a major cause of these super bad variants – they are dead wrong. Unfettered spread of the coronavirus is what gives the virus more chances to practice in our bodies and learn to adapt against a body with no ready vaxxed immunity.”
According to the paper, there are currently four VOCs : Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta and four VOIs : Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda in circulation globally.
“Of these, Alpha, Beta and Delta have had the most impact globally in terms of transmission and immune evasion, with Delta rapidly displacing other variants to predominate globally, including in South Africa.”
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