The strain has been linked to “increased transmissibility,” but has not yet been designated as a “Variant of Concern” or a “Variant of Interest.”
I have noted that SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will likely crash in waves throughout the globe until population immunity builds to the point it will join the many other viruses that cause colds or other mild respiratory illnesses.
The recent delta variant surge has been deemed the fourth wave. According to a chart prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it appears the fourth wave may be receding.
And before the delta wave peters out to a small ripple, the media found another variant to feature: The South African variant.
A COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa could be more infectious than other mutations — and may have the potential of being resistant to vaccines, according to a report.
The C.1.2 strain has been linked to “increased transmissibility” and is said to have mutated the most from the original virus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the Mirror reported.
The strain has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year, almost double the global mutation rate seen in any other existing variant of concern, according to experts at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.
The number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa has risen from 0.2 percent in May to 1.6 percent in June and 2 percent in July, according to scientists, who also have found 14 mutations in nearly 50 percent of the variants that had a C.1.2 sequence.
The mutations are in the spike protein that makes it adhere to the human respiratory system.
More than half (about 52%) of the mutations in the spike region of the C.1.2 sequences have previously been seen in other VOCs [Variants of Concern] and VOIs [Variants of Interst]. The mutations N440K and Y449H, which have been associated with escape from certain antibodies, have also been noticed in C.1.2 sequences.
The scientists stressed that the combination of these mutations, as well as changes in other parts of the virus, likely help the virus evade antibodies and immune responses, including in patients who have already been infected with the Alpha or Beta variants.
A Variant of Concern is one for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease outcomes, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or higher probability of diagnostic detection failures. The current Variants of Concern are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. Alpha and Delta are the dominant variants in much of the world. Beta and Gamma are more localized.
A Variant of Interest is one with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced efficacy of natural recovery or recovery with treatments, potential diagnostic challenges, or a potential for increased transmissibility or disease severity. They now include Eta, Iota, and Kappa.
The new variant has been reported in South Africa and seven other countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Scientists are monitoring what is happening in South Africa to see if classification as a VOC or VOI is appropriate.
Having more mutations does not necessarily equal more danger — some mutations can weaken a virus and it’s the combination of changes that affects whether a virus becomes more efficient. One extra mutation could cancel out the effects of another.
But the team — which includes virologist Penny Moore of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases — say they are keeping an eye on it.
“We are currently assessing the impact of this variant on antibody neutralization following SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa,” they wrote in a report posted online as a preprint.
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