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South African scientists find a new variant of highly mutant coronavirus

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD, in its English acronym) announced this Monday the identification of a new variant of the highly mutant coronavirus originally detected in this country, although it has also been found in other nations.

The variant, called C.1.2 , was identified in May in two South African provinces, Gauteng (where Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria are located) and neighboring Mpumalanga, although it has already been discovered in the nine provinces of the southern country.

C.1.2, which has also been found in countries such as Portugal, Switzerland, New Zealand or Mauritius , shares some mutations with other variants, such as delta (originated in India) or beta (which emerged last year in South Africa itself ), but it has other unique ones.

According to NICD scientist Cathrine Scheepers, the new variant has ” up to 59 mutations, which is a lot “, if one takes into account that other variants tend to have “around 25”.

At the moment and despite its mutational capacity, C.1.2 is neither a “worrying variant” nor a “variant of interest”, according to the classification criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO), because it has been detected with a “low frequency,” explained Dr. Jinal Bhiman of the NICD.

On whether the new variant is more transmissible than others, Scheepers has said that “right now we don’t know”, as scientists continue to do experiments to find out more about it.

“Based on our knowledge of mutations in this variant, we suspect that it could partially evade the immune response , but despite this, vaccines will continue to offer high levels of protection against hospitalization and death,” stressed the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. it’s a statement.

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Professor Adrian Puren, from the NICD, has assured that the vaccines currently used in South Africa , such as those of the pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, are ” effective ” against C.1.2, so there is no reason to enter ” panic”.

In fact, “the pandemic in South Africa continues to be dominated by the delta variant “, very contagious, in the third wave of covid-19 that the African country suffers, clarifies Professor Penny Moore, from the same institute.

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