(Johannesburg) South African scientists are monitoring a new variant of the coronavirus with an abnormal mutation rate and its frequency has steadily increased in recent months, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa said on Monday.
The variant, called C.1.2, was reported last week in a study not yet published by KwaZulu-Natal (Crisp) Research, Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Crisp).
Although most of the Kovid-19 infections in South Africa are currently caused by the Delta variant – the first to be detected in India – C.1.2 has caught the attention of scientists, changing almost twice as fast as the other variants already observed.
To date, C.1.2 has been found in all South African provinces, as well as in other parts of the world, including China, Mauritius, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
However, it is not uncommon to qualify as a “variant of interest” or an “alarming variant” like the Delta and Beta variants found in South Africa in 2020 – both highly contagious.
NICD scientists on Monday confirmed that C.1.2 was “only at a very low level” and that it was too early to detect its evolution.
“At the moment, in terms of sensitivity to antibodies, we have no experimental data to confirm how it responds,” said NICD researcher Penny Moore.
But “we have significant confidence that vaccines distributed in South Africa will continue to protect us from serious cases and deaths,” she said.
South Africa is the most affected country on the African continent, with 2.7 million cases reported so far, of which 81,830 are fatal.
The beta variant is the source of the second wave pollution, which affected the country in December and January, now facing the third wave, dominated by the delta variant.