New Covid-19 variant found in South Africa has concerning mutations

Residents wait in line for a Covid-19 vaccine in Cape Town, South Africa on Aug 26, 2021.
Residents wait in line for a Covid-19 vaccine in Cape Town, South Africa on Aug 26, 2021.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

JOHANNESBURG (BLOOMBERG) - South African scientists said they identified a new coronavirus variant that has a concerning number of mutations.

The so-called C12 variant was first identified in May in the South African provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng, where Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, are situated, the scientists said in a research paper.

It has since been found in seven other countries in Africa, Oceania, Asia and Europe.

The mutations on the virus "are associated with increased transmissibility" and an increased ability to evade antibodies, the scientists said.

"It is important to highlight this lineage given its concerning constellation of mutations."

Changes in the virus have driven successive waves of the coronavirus with the delta variant, first found in India, now pushing up infection rates across the world.

Mutations are first classified as variants of interest by the World Health Organisation. Once they are identified as being more severe or transmissible, they're termed variants of concern.

C12 evolved from C1, a lineage of the virus that dominated infections in the first wave of the virus in South Africa in mid-2020.

The research was published by South African groups including the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, known as Krisp, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

South African scientists also discovered the Beta variant in 2020, but have been keen to stress that the country's advanced ability to sequence the genomes of the virus means that while new strains may be identified in the country, they could have originated elsewhere.