A new, potentially more contagious variant of COVID-19 has been found in South Africa and elsewhere, new research shows.
C.1.2. The variant was discovered by scientists from South African groups at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, known as Krisp and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. It was first reported in May and has since been seen in most of South Africa’s 9 provinces as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Portugal, New Zealand and Switzerland.
According to Bloomberg, the researchers said the mutations seen in this variant give it “increased transmissibility” and “increased ability to escape antibodies,” such as those provided by previous infection and recovery or vaccination.
Tulio de Oliveira, the director of Krisp, told an immunology conference on Monday that researchers are still examining how vaccinated and unvaccinated people respond to the new variant.
“It has only been detected in a hundred genomes, a very low number,” he said. “It’s still a very small percentage, but again, we’re really keeping an eye on it. It has all the signatures of immune evasion.
Still, the researchers noted C.1.2. has a “concerning constellations of mutations”.
According to the newspaper, the new variant accounted for 2% of all cases in South Africa in July while the delta variant accounted for 89%.
Only about 14% of the South African population is fully vaccinated.