A new variant of the new coronavirus has been detected in South Africa. For now, it is known as C.1.2, sums up cases in all provinces of this country (as well as in seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania), but registers a relatively low transmission rate, according to The Guardian.
The Delta variant remains dominant, but even so, the new variant is already raising eyebrows. This is because, although it has little significant numbers, it contains mutations similar to those found in variants classified as being of interest or concern – such as Delta.
Should we then be concerned or is this a variant with little impact on the evolution of the pandemic? Point by point, these are the facts on the table about C.1.2:
Has the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a variant of interest or concern?
The Guardian emphasizes that no. C.1.2 is not yet on any of the World Health Organization’s main warning lists, and further testing is needed to understand the transmission potential of this variant.
It should be remembered that the variants of interest are those that have been proven to cause multiple transmission chains and whose cases of infection have already been found in several countries. On the other hand, variants considered to be of concern, such as Delta, are those with high levels of spread, viral load or disease. They are also those that are most resistant to public health measures.
Where does the worry come from?
If WHO is not concerned to include C.1.2 on the alert lists, what makes the scientific community talk so much about this variant? The problem seems to lie with mutations.
According to Megan Steain, a virologist specializing in infectious diseases, the specific mutations present in this variant are similar to those found in variants that have, however, become a concern. Cited by The Guardian, the University of Sydney doctor emphasizes that whenever these types of mutations are identified, it is good policy to keep an eye on their behavior.
These mutations can make the variant more easily transmitted or able to evade the immune response of the infected, for example. Right now, the priority is to study, investigate and carry out further laboratory tests to determine whether these mutations may or may not be a problem.
Can this variant just disappear?
Yes. There is a possibility that the C.1.2 variant will disappear on its own, as has happened with other Covid-19 variants that have been appearing since the pandemic began. While it may not seem like it, many variants are fragile: “C.1.2 would have to be very good and very fast to overtake Delta at this point,” explains Megan Steain, adding that prevalence is significantly low at the moment.
“We saw this happening with the Beta variant and with other worrying variants”, he stresses. It looked like they would be a problem, but then they ended up not consolidating their transmission level and were overtaken by other variants, resulting in their disappearance.
Will vaccines be effective against C.1.2?
The data available so far do not provide a clear answer, but given that the mutations are similar to the Delta variant, the vaccines’ effectiveness should also be at the same level.
“So we think maybe the drug won’t neutralize as well as it would with an older variant. But until we do these tests, it is speculative», stresses the same expert.