New COVID variant detected in South Africa, most mutated variant so far

The C.1.2 variant first detected in South Africa is more mutated compared to the original virus than any other known variant.

Authors: By TZVI JOFFRE   AUGUST 29, 2021 14:47

A new coronavirus variant, C.1.2, has been detected in South Africa and a number of other countries, with concerns that it could be more infectious and evade vaccines, according to a new preprint study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform. The study is awaiting peer review. Scientists first detected C.1.2 in May 2021, finding that it was descended from C.1, which scientists found surprising as C.1 had last been detected in January. The new variant has “mutated substantially” compared to C.1 and is more mutations away from the original virus detected in Wuhan than any other Variant of Concern (VOC) or Variant of Interest (VOI) detected so far worldwide. While first detected in South Africa, C.1.2 has since been found in England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland. The scientists believe 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. The study found consistent increases in the number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa on a monthly basis, rising from 0.2% of genomes sequenced in May to 1.6% in June and then to 2% in July, similar to the increases seen with the Beta and Delta variants there. The study also found that the C.1.2 lineage has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year, which is nearly twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants. The scientists stated that this short period of increased evolution was also seen with the Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants, suggesting that a single event, followed by a spike in cases, drove faster mutation rates. More than half of the C.1.2 sequences have 14 mutations, but additional mutations have been noticed in some of the sequences, suggesting that evolution within the lineage is ongoing, according to the study. More than half (about 52%) of the mutations in the spike region of the C.1.2 sequences have previously been seen in other VOCs and VOIs. The mutations N440K and Y449H, which have been associated with escape from certain antibodies, have also been noticed in C.1.2 sequences. The scientists stressed that the combination of these mutations, as well as changes in other parts of the virus, likely help the virus evade antibodies and immune responses, including in patients who have already been infected with the Alpha or Beta variants. The scientists added that further work is required to understand the exact impact of these mutations and to see if they give the variant a competitive advantage over the Delta variant. The study comes as a doctor in Turkey reported indications that a new coronavirus variant had been detected in the country, with tests detecting mutations that weren’t found in the current variants named by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Lütfi Çamlı told Turkish media that while tests were conducted to detect the presence of variants around Turkey, doctors found a new variant with no connection to the other variants, reaching a rate of about 50%-60% of cases in the northern province of Rize. Çamlı stressed, however, that it is still unclear whether they have actually found a new variant or if it was just the result of false negativity in PCR tests. The doctor additionally stressed that it is normal for new mutations to emerge in an epidemic and that the mutations recently found in Turkey may not have any serious effect on how the virus functions. Çamlı called for further research and for the results of genomic tests of the samples carried out in Ankara to be released to the public. As of last Wednesday, the WHO had identified four VOCs and four VOIs. As of last Thursday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) had identified five and six respectively. A number of other variants have been designated for further monitoring.

“One Step Closer To Dictatorship”: Joe Rogan Slams Vaccine Passports, Warns Vax May Cause ‘Virulent Mutations’

Rogan – who acknowledge thathe’s not a doctor or an anti-vaxx person, says that concerned doctors have been anonymously sending him studies – including one which asserts that an imperfect vaccine can lead to ‘highly virulent pathogens,’ and that ‘vaccines that keep the host alive but still allow transmission can thus allow virulent strains to circulate in a population.’

“The very sort of environment that we’re creating by having so many people vaccinated with a vaccine that doesn’t kill off the virus, it actually can lead to a more potent virus. Try finding that story anywhere,” said Rogan, who was referring to a peer-reviewed paper published in 2015, in which its authors – from Penn State and the Pirbright Institute concluded that “anti-disease vaccines that do not prevent transmission can create conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated hosts.

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I treat pediatric COVID patients. What I’m seeing in our hospital scares me.

There is this popular notion that covid doesn’t affect children – and my public health and epidemiologic training reminds me that on a population-level, it’s true, the majority of children who contract covid-19 will be asymptomatic or have mild disease. But I contrast this with the reality of being a clinician at the bedside of children critically ill from covid and covid-related illnesses. These two perspectives battle in my brain as I make risk assessments for my own school-aged child. One thing that terrifies me as a parent is that we can’t predict why some children get so incredibly sick from covid while others have mild disease; we don’t know why some go on to have lingering debilitation and symptoms for months, and others make quick recoveries.

What I do know is that in this moment, as the highly contagious delta variant becomes the predominant strain circulating and we enter another covid surge, I am more worried for children than I have ever been.

First and foremost, this is because the high transmissibility of the delta variant will translate into a greater number of children being exposed than before, which will lead to a greater number of children infected. Even if the delta variant is no more virulent in children than the original virus was, the sheer numbers will translate into more children being admitted to the hospital with covid and covid-related illnesses. As school reopenings coincide with the growth of the delta variant, I worry we will see large outbreaks in school settings that we didn’t see with less-contagious versions of the virus.

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