What we know so far about new Covid-19 variant C.1.2

It is not yet known for sure if C.1.2 is more transmissible.
It is not yet known for sure if C.1.2 is more transmissible.
Image: 123RF/ Satjawat Boontanataweepol

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Monday shared information on a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed C.1.2 — which was recently detected and confirmed.

This is what we know so far:

  • In South Africa, 109 samples have shown up as being C.1.2. This is across the country, but scientists cannot say where the most samples were found as genome surveillance capacity differs across provinces;
  • The new variant is highly unlikely to reduce our vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease and death. Research is ongoing but scientists are “confident” that both J&J and Pfizer will remain highly efficacious against severe disease and death in the face of the new variant;
  • The new variant does have some concerning mutations that are not present in current Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest, but it also has many that are familiar to scientists;
  • The Delta variant still predominates in SA, with C.1.2 detected at a low frequency. It has become more common, but remains at a relatively low frequency, present in less than 3% of samples;
  • It is not yet known for sure if C.1.2 is more transmissible, but some of the mutations it exhibits, and which have been found in other variants, have been linked to an increase in transmission;
  • The variant has not been assigned a Greek letter yet, as it has not yet been classified as a Variant of Concern or Variant of Interest. Once a variant has spread significantly in a region or globally, or there is evidence that it increases transmissibility, its status changes. When it appears in around 20% of sequences, the WHO will officially call it a Variant of Interest;
  • The NICD is hoping to have more definitive data out in the next few weeks as they continue to take blood samples from people who have been vaccinated or are ill with Covid-19. They do this to grow more samples of the new variant in the lab and are testing antibodies against it;
  • Scientists cannot predict how fast C.1.2 will spread or if it will take over Delta as the dominant variant. The NICD scientists say they have learnt not to predict what variants do in terms of spread; and
  • Most Variants of Concern or Variants of Interest have, on average, 25 mutations, whereas C.1.2 has 59.