Researchers have been keeping a close eye on a new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged across South Africa and seven other countries in Asia and the Pacific. The new variant, called C.1.2., reportedly, exhibits many of the same hallmarks as those in the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants.
The researchers looking at the variant have submitted their study to the World Health Organization. According to the researchers, the variant carries a "constellation of mutations" that may make it more dangerous in terms of its increased transmissibility and ability to evade the body's immune system response.
The study said that having more mutations doesn't mean that it is more dangerous. Researchers said some mutations can backfire and actually make a virus weaker. One mutation could cancel out the effects of another and researchers are still attempting to map out the new strain's composition.
"We are currently assessing the impact of this variant on antibody neutralization following SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa," researchers said in the report.
The new strain was first detected during the third wave of infections in South Africa back in May. The variant has since been detected in other countries within Europe, Asia, and Oceana.
As of the moment, the variant has not yet been given a Greek alphabet designation as the WHO still does not consider it to be a "variant of concern." The WHO has already named four variants of concern, including the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants of the coronavirus. The agency has also named four variants of interest, namely the Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda variants.
The WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerhove, said there are still very few who have been infected by the C.1.2. variant. She said there are only around 100 sequences of the variant reported globally.
The WHO said it will continue to monitor and assess the new variant but assured the public that it does not appear to be rising in circulation. The agency said it is critical for them to understand the evolution of the virus so that they can adapt strategies and respond more rapidly.