Scientists have detected a new variant of concern in the UK that could be even more contagious than the Delta strain.
A new highly contagious variant
Originally found in South Africa in May, the deadly mutation has since been traced in China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland. South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform have said that the variant has a mutation rate of 41.8 mutations per year.
Compared to any other variant of concern at the moment, this new strain—which is being called C.1.2—has nearly double the current global mutation rate. As it stands, researchers have found a steady and worrying monthly increase in the number of C.1.2 genomes in South Africa—which has risen from 0.2% in May to 1.6% in June to 2.0% in July.
Hampered vaccine efforts?
Researches are now saying that the concerningly rapid spread of this new variant could undoubtedly hinder the level of protection provided by coronavirus vaccines. In a report published in the journal Nature, scientists explained:
We describe and characterise a newly identified SARS-CoV-2 lineage with several spike mutations that is likely to have emerged in a major metropolitan area in South Africa after the first wave of the epidemic, and then to have spread to multiple locations within two neighbouring provinces.
We show that this lineage has rapidly expanded and become dominant in three provinces, at the same time as there has been a rapid resurgence in infections.
Although the full import of the mutations is not yet clear, the genomic and epidemiological data suggest that this variant has a selective advantage—from increased transmissibility, immune escape or both.