South African scientists identify new COVID variant with ‘increased transmissibility’

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A new, potentially more contagious variant of COVID-19 has been found in South Africa, and elsewhere, according to new research.

The C.1.2. variant was discovered by scientists from South African groups the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, known as Krisp and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. It was first flagged in May and has since been spotted in most of South Africa’s 9 provinces as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Portugal, New Zealand and Switzerland.

According to Bloomberg, the researchers said the mutations seen in this variant give it “increased transmissibility” and an “increased ability to evade antibodies,” such as those provided by previous infection and recovery or vaccination.

Tulio de Oliveira, the director of Krisp, said at an immunology conference Monday that researchers are still examining how vaccinated and unvaccinated people react to the new variant.

“It has only been detected in around 100 genomes, a very low number,” he said. “It’s still a very small percentage, but again we are really keeping a good eye on that. It has all of the signatures of immune escape.”

Still, the researchers noted C.1.2. has a “concerning constellations of mutations.”

According to the paper, the new variant accounted for 2% of all cases in South Africa in July while the delta variant accounted for 89%.

Only about 14% of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.