New, potentially lethal COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has identified a potential variant of interest (VOI) of COVID-19 that is assigned to the Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Linages (PANGO) lineage C.1.2.

According to the reports, the C.1.2 strain of coronavirus was first detected in May 2021 in South Africa when the country was experiencing the third wave.

Speaking to the media, the officials stated that the C.1.2 variant of COVID-19 has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South Africa and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

Health experts have warned that a new variant of COVID-19 can give rise to another ferocious wave in the future. The newly detected variant of interest in South Africa has also been termed as a variant of concern by the experts.

The variant has evolved from C.1, one of the lineages that dominated the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections in South Africa and were last detected in January 2021. According to the experts, C.1.2 is a deadly coronavirus variant that is associated with increased transmissibility and reduced neutralisation sensitivity.

Compared to C.1, the new variant has “mutated substantially” and is more mutations away from the original virus detected in Wuhan than any other Variant of Concern (VOC) or VOI detected so far worldwide,” a researcher was quoted as saying.

Studies conducted showed that C.1.2 has 41.8 mutations per year. It is approximately 1.7-fold faster than the current global rate and 1.8-fold faster than the initial estimate of SARS-CoV-2 evolution.

In the report, the researchers also stated that a similarly short period of increased evolution was also associated with the emergence of the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma VOCs. They also suggested that a single event, followed by the amplification of cases, drove a faster mutation rate.

The recent study has also found consistent increases in the number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa on a monthly basis, rising from 0.2 per cent in May to 1.6 per cent in June and 2.0 per cent in July.

The rate of mutations is similar to the increases seen in Beta and Delta in South Africa during early detection,” one of the researchers said.

Meanwhile, India has also reported the presence of a new sub-lineage AY.12 of the Delta variant of Covid, which was recently classified in Israel.

A recent report by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, (INSACOG), shows many cases in India that were earlier classified as Delta, are now being reclassified as AY.12.

New symptoms associated with the variant are yet to be confirmed by health experts. However, they have cautioned that some of the common symptoms of the variants could be runny nose, persistent cough, throat pain, body ache, loss of smell and taste, fever, muscle cramps, pink eyes, diarrhoea, among others.

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