C.1.2 Variant, Most Mutated COVID Strain So Far, Detected in Nine Countries

Another variant of COVID-19 detected in nine countries is causing concern among scientists because it is more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants of the virus.

A pre-print study that emerged last week said the C.1.2 variant, which was first detected in South Africa in May, has since been found in Botswana, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland.

There are four other variants of concern of COVID-19 among scientists—Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta—and another four variants of interest—Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda—in global circulation. Alpha, Beta and Delta have had the most impact globally in terms of transmission and immune evasion.

But the newly-discovered variant seems to have an unusually high mutation rate and more mutations of other variants of concern (VOCs), the study, led by a team of South African scientists, noted. It also noted that it is more likely to cause severe COVID-19 than other variants.

C.1.2. contains multiple variations with the coronavirus' spike protein, some of which have been seen in other variants associated with increased transmissibility and more resistance to vaccines.

The new variant was discovered in South Africa's third wave of COVID-19 infections in May. It was found to contain many mutations that were found in all VOCs and three VOIs, as well as additional changes within the NTD (C136F), RBD (Y449H), and adjacent to the furin cleavage site (N679K).

"Like several other VOCs, C.1.2 has accumulated a number of substitutions beyond what would be expected from the background SARS-CoV-2 evolutionary rate," the study said. "This suggests the likelihood that these mutations arose during a period of accelerated evolution in a single individual with prolonged viral infection through virus-host co-evolution19–21."

As of August 20, when the paper was submitted, there were 80 cases of C.1.2 found.

The scientists behind the paper said that more work was going on to fully understand the impact of the mutations and to see if they give the virus a competitive advantage over the Delta variant.

Newsweek has contacted some epidemiologists for comment on the new variant.

The news comes as a doctor in Turkey has claimed to have found a previously unidentified variant of COVID-19 in Izmir, the country's third-largest province, the Daily Sabah reported.

Dr. Lütfi Çamlı, the head of Izmir Medical Association, warned on August 26 the new variant was also identified in other provinces and its rates among COVID-19 patients in Izmir recently rose to 40 percent.

COVID Testing in South Africa
Health workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) prepares to test a woman for COVID-19 at the Fourways Life Hospital in Johannesburg on June 28, 2021. Another COVID-19 variant that is more transmissible and more resistant to vaccines has been detected in South Africa. Emmanuel Croset/AFP via Getty Images