The more viruses spread, the more likely they are to mutate and form different variants. Variants that become more transmissible, resistant to current treatment options and vaccines, or cause more severe disease are called variants of concern (VOC).
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recognizes four SARS-CoV-2 VOCs:
– Alpha B.1.1.7, first detected in September 2020 in the UK.
– Beta B.1.351, first detected in May 2020 in South Africa
– Gamma P.1, first detected in November 2020 in Brazil
– Delta B.1.617.2, first detected in October 2020 in India.
Viruses need a host to replicate and mutate. The only way to prevent new, more dangerous variants of SARS-CoV-2 from emerging is to prevent transmission and infection. The more opportunity SARS-CoV-2 has to cause an infection, the greater the risk of new VOCs emerging.
The new variant called C.1.2
In recent research, scientists at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg, South Africa have identified and examined a new variant of potential interest called C.1.2. Since its initial discovery in May 2021, scientists have detected the C.1.2 variant in seven other countries, including New Zealand, the United Kingdom and China. Although it has some characteristics that may cause concern, experts continue to gather data.
Mutations with increased transmissibility
Through genetic analysis, the study authors note that C.1.2 contains many mutations also present in the Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma variants of SARS-CoV-2. According to the researchers, these mutations make it easier for the virus to enter target cells, resist current treatments and vaccines, and spread from person to person. Scientists are concerned about this variant because of how quickly it mutated. It is between 44 and 59 mutations compared to the original virus detected in Wuhan (China). Which makes it more mutated than any other VOC identified by the WHO. It also contains many mutations that have been associated with increased transmissibility and improved ability to evade antibodies in other variants.
Should we be worried about this new variant?
Although monitored very closely, it is still only detected at very low levels in South Africa (less than 3% of viruses in the country) and globally (less than 1% in many countries). other regions). For now, experts think it’s worth keeping an eye on, but not overly worrying about it. The number of cases remains quite low, and we have no evidence that the particular mutations he carries make him more dangerous than the Delta. »
Could C.1.2 overtake other variants?
It’s still too early to tell what this variant will do. For the moment, he does not seem to want to overtake the Delta, which currently predominates in South Africa. The Delta variant also remains the predominant variant globally.
WHO: Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants
The continuous evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa: a new lineage with rapid accumulation of mutations of concern and global detection