A new coronavirus variant has been discovered in South Africa that has a lot of mutations

A new coronavirus variant has been discovered in South Africa that has a lot of mutations

Variant C.1.2, discovered in South Africa, is the one with the highest number of mutations among those identified so far. For this it must be monitored carefully

(photo: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay) There is a new form of coronavirus with a high number of mutations: it is variant C.1.2, first discovered in May 2021 in South Africa. According to what is reported by a work not yet peer reviewed (but available here in pre print), the new variant appears to be the most mutated of all the others in the central part of the virus, or its spike protein. Some mutations have already been associated with greater transmissibility and have given some evidence of reduced sensitivity - and therefore response - to neutralization by antibodies. Therefore, the authors of the study, from the National Health Laboratory Service in Johannesburg, South Africa, draw attention to variant C.1.2, for close monitoring and to avoid widespread dissemination.

What we know about the new variant

The variant is described in the international database that collects all known variants of the coronavirus, in which it has been assigned the name C.1.2 in the Pango nomenclature. Currently, it has not yet been attributed a Greek letter, according to the new list of the World Health Organization (WHO). But we already know something. C.1.2 was recently discovered and is the result of the evolution of C.1, also identified in South Africa in January 2021 (C.1, however, is not the beta variant, formerly South African, which is still another). C.1.2 is currently widespread in South Africa and also present in 7 other countries in the various continents (for now Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania). It is currently not very widespread and the cases identified are a few dozen globally, and most of them in South Africa, while the delta variant dominates, even in this country. However, we must not let our guard down as it has some characteristics that could make it dangerous.

The variant with the most mutations

Currently, according to the WHO criteria, there are some variants that "cause concern "Such as alpha, beta, gamma and delta, with the delta above the others, and some variants" of interest ", to be kept under control, namely eta, iota, kappa and lambda. The new C.1.2 discovered in May, which is now one of the variants of interest, presents substantial differences compared to C.1, explain the authors, so much so that it is classified in a different way (and with an acronym). This is the absolute variant with the most changes so far and with a high number of variations, since it has from 44 to 59 mutations compared to the original virus. Many of these were already present in the other variants, while others were detected for the first time. Among these, a mutation concerns the Ntd domain, a less studied part of the spike protein.

"Like various other variants" of concern "- the researchers write in the text - C.1.2 has accumulated a number of substitutions to the beyond what one would expect from the Sars-Cov-2 evolution rate scenario ”. There is also a possible explanation for this excess of variations. "This probably indicates that these mutations appeared during a period of accelerated evolution", the authors continue, "in a single individual with a prolonged viral infection through a virus-host co-evolution". This hypothesis is supported by another piece of evidence: some of the mutations - in particular deletions in the NTD - have been observed in the case of long-lasting infections.

Why you need to be alert

Many of the mutations were associated with a greater ability to bind the Ace2 receptor (which we know to be the hook with which the virus harpoons cells) and with reduced neutralization activity, the researchers explain. "These elements - they conclude - provide sufficient reasons to worry about a continued transmission of this variant". Mass vaccination, along with other protective measures (spacing and masks), as well as central sequencing, will be important weapons for the foreseeable future.

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