Everything you need to know about new Covid variant C.1.2
A NEW coronavirus variant has been detected which could be as infectious as the Delta strain, experts have claimed.
The C.1.2 variant is already in the UK and was first spotted in South Africa, but what do we know about the strain and will vaccines protect us?
The strain was first identified by scientists in South Africa in May.
It has since been found in England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland.
In a report, published in the journal Nature, experts explained that the strain emerged at the start of the first wave in South Africa and then spread to other locations.
The experts added: “We show that this lineage has rapidly expanded and become dominant in three provinces, at the same time as there has been a rapid resurgence in infections.
“Although the full import of the mutations is not yet clear, the genomic and epidemiological data suggest that this variant has a selective advantage—from increased transmissibility, immune escape or both.”
Public Health England (PHE) said earlier this month that the C.1.2 mutation was among a clutch of ten variants being monitored.
The number of cases of this mutation is not known, with the figures not published.
This suggests the infections in the UK are small, and not a huge concern for the country yet.
Will vaccines work?
There is no evidence to suggest that the vaccines already in circulation for Covid-19 will not work against the new strain.
People in the UK have had vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna.
In the UK, 48 million people have had a first dose of a vaccine with 42.7 million having had a second.
Dr Megan Steain, virologist and lecturer in immunology and infectious diseases with the University of Sydney’s Central Clinical School said there is no need to panic about C.1.2, but that the variant would need to be monitored.
She told The Guardian: “We can take an educated guess based on some of the mutations that it has, in that it’s similar to what we’ve seen in other variants like beta, as well as Delta.
“So we think, perhaps, the serum won’t neutralise as well as it would against an ancestral strain. But until we actually do those experiments it’s speculative really.
“We’ve got to bear in mind that the vaccine so far looks like it’s holding up really, really well in terms of preventing severe infection and hospitalisations and deaths from variants. They’re really good at preventing that.”
South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that more data needed to be gathered to understand if vaccines would still be efficient.
It said it could ‘evade immune response’, but added that vaccines still offer a high level of protection against both hospitalisations and deaths.
Will it die out?
As viruses evolve and continue to live in society, it’s natural that they mutate.
While some become stronger and more dominant, as the the world has seen with the Delta variant, others die out and become weaker and more fragile.
Dr Steain said that the C.1.2 variant would have to be ‘pretty strong’ to compete with the Delta variant.
She explained that prevalence is low and that it could still die out.
One of the main reasons as to why scientists are so concerned with the variant is due to the fact that it contains some of the key mutations that have been seen in other variants such as Beta and Delta.
The mutations decide whether or not the virus transmits at a faster rate and if it is more deadly.
The scientists found the variant has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year – this is nearly double the current global mutation rate seen in any other so far