South African scientists say new coronavirus variant has ‘concerning’ number of mutations

A South African research paper released this month detailed a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, with scientists noting that it has “concerning constellations of mutations.”

The research paper focused on the C.1.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in May of this year. It descended from the C.1 variant of the virus, one of the variants that overtook South Africa earlier this year.

“C.1.2 is highly mutated beyond C.1 and all other [variants of concern] and [variants of interest] globally with between 44-59 mutations away from the original Wuhan Hu-1 virus,” the researchers wrote.

“While the phenotypic characteristics and epidemiology of C.1.2 are being defined, it is important to highlight this lineage given its concerning constellations of mutations,” they said.

This variant was first detected in the Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces of South Africa. It has since been found in six of South Africa’s nine provinces as well as in England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland.

The researchers noted that the C.1.2 variant shares several mutations common to all variants of concern — alpha, beta, delta and gamma — as well as three variants of interest. According to the scientists, these mutations likely occurred in a single individual who had a prolonged case of COVID-19, resulting in an accelerated evolution.

“While these mutations are not characteristic of current VOCs/VOIs, they have been associated with escape from certain class 3 neutralizing antibodies,” they wrote. “The combination of these mutations presents a potentially novel antigenic landscape for C.1.2 variant specific antibodies.”

The variant has not yet been given a name, though if it does receive one it will likely be a letter from the Greek alphabet as all other variants have received.

Tags coronavirus variants COVID-19 mutation South Africa Variant of concern

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