- It was first discovered in South Africa in May, according to scientists.
- It has also been detected in China, England, and Switzerland.
- The research has yet to be peer-reviewed.
According to the study, a new mutation of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been identified in South Africa and many other places across the world, which might be more transmissible and evade vaccination protection.
South African researchers from KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported in May that the potential mutation of interest, C.1.2, was discovered in the country. As of August 13, C.1.2 had been discovered in China, New Zealand, Mauritius, Switzerland, England, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Portugal.
According to the study, which was released on the online repository MedRxiv on August 24 and has yet to be peer-reviewed, C.1.2 has changed considerably from C.1, one of the lineages that dominated SARS-CoV-2 infections in South Africa during the first wave.
The new variant of Covid C.1.2, according to the researchers, possesses more mutations than other variants of concern (VOCs) or variants of interest (VOIs) identified till now. They highlighted that the number of accessible C.1.2 sequences may be an underrepresentation of the variant’s distribution and frequency in South Africa and throughout the world.
The research reveals significant increase in the amount of C.1.2 genomes sequenced in South Africa, increasing from 0.2 percent of genomes sequenced in May to 1.6 percent in June and then to 2% in July.
“This is similar to the increases reported in the country with the Beta and Delta variants during early detection,” the study’s authors said.
Researchers found that the mutation rate of the C.1.2 lineage is about twice as rapid as the current global mutation rate of other variants.
More over half of the C.1.2 sequences had 14 mutations, although some of the sequences include additional variants. “Though these changes occur in the majority of C.1.2 viruses, there is further variation within this lineage’s spike area, indicating ongoing intra-lineage evolution,” the study’s authors said.
C.1.2 sequences had around 52% mutations that have previously been seen in other VOC and VOI sequences. The SARS-CoV-2 virus uses the spike protein to infect and penetrate human cells, and most vaccines target this area. C.1.2 sequences have N440K and Y449H mutations, which have been related with immunological escape from some antibodies.
“While these changes are not common in contemporary VOCs/VOIs, they have been linked to resistance to specific class 3 neutralising antibodies,” the scientists wrote.
They observed that these mutations, together with alterations in other sections of the virus, are likely to enable the virus escape antibodies and immunological response, even in individuals who have previously generated antibodies against the Alpha or Beta versions.
“While the clinical features and epidemiology of C.1.2 are being characterised,” the scientists added, “it is important to highlight this lineage given its worrisome constellations of mutations.”