New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, named C.1.2, has been detected in South Africa and many other countries globally which could be more transmissible and evade protection provided by vaccines, according to a study conducted by National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP). 

"It could be more transmissible and has potential to spread fast. Since there are so many mutations in the spike protein, it could result in immune escape and thus a challenge for the vaccination drive worldwide if allowed to spread," Virologist Upasana Ray from Kolkata's CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, told PTI.

The potential variant of interest, C.1.2, was first detected in South Africa in May this year according to scientists. Since then it has been found in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, England, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland as of August 13, the scientists said.

However, the study is yet to be peer-reviewed. It was posted on the preprint repository MedRxiv on August 24. The study says C.1.2 has mutated substantially compared to C.1, one of the lineages which dominated the SARS-CoV-2 infections in the first wave in South Africa. Researchers have claimed that the new variant has more mutations than other variants of concern (VOCs) or variants of interest (VOIs) detected worldwide so far.

They also pointed out that the number of available sequences of C.1.2 may be an underrepresentation of the spread and frequency of the variant in South Africa and around the world which means that its spread could be severe than anticipated.

Further, the study found consistent increases in the number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa each month, rising from 0.2 per cent of genomes sequenced in May to 1.6 per cent in June and then to 2 per cent in July. This means the variant is spreading more rapidly. C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year, which is about twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants.

The variant is said to be a result of numerous mutations accumulated in C.1.2 line in the spike protein which makes it a lot different than the original virus that was identified in Wuhan, China in 2019 as noted by Ray.

The researchers have also expressed the fear that these mutations together with changes in other parts of the virus will likely help the virus evade antibodies, and immune response, including in patients who have already developed antibodies for the Alpha or Beta variants.

Therefore, controlling the transmission step itself by strictly cutting down the spread by following Covid-19 control measures is absolutely important, Ray said.

(With inputs from PTI)

Posted By: Sugandha Jha