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New Variant Surfaces in South Africa

Researchers can't tell much yet, but WHO labels this version 'of concern'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2021 6:15 PM CDT
New Variant Surfaces in South Africa
A patient receives a Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday at a pop-up vaccination center in Soweto, South Africa.   (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

(Newser) – Another coronavirus variant has been detected, say researchers who caution against becoming too concerned but suspect it's better at getting around immunity protection than delta. The researchers spotted the C.1.2 variant in May in South Africa, Reuters reports, and published their work this month. It has not been peer-reviewed, but the findings have been forwarded to the World Health Organization. The variant has reached most of the country's provinces as well as England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland. It's related to the C.1 variant that hit South Africa earlier in the year, per the Hill.

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In C.1.2, scientists see "concerning constellations of mutations," calling it "highly mutated beyond C.1 and all other" variants of concern. The researchers said the new variant is 44 to 59 mutations removed from the original Wuhan Hu-1 virus. WHO lists it, and three other variants, as being "of concern." Researchers can't answer many questions about C.1.2 yet. But they say it shares many mutations with other variants linked to greater transmissibility and reduced susceptibility to neutralizing antibodies—though the mutations aren't mixed the same way. One of the study's authors said such mutations can be expected as a pandemic progresses. "This virus is still exploring ways to potentially get better at infecting us," he said. (Read more COVID variants stories.)

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