What we know about variant C.1.2

A COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa, is making headlines around the world as scientists work to determine its transmissibility and antibody-evading properties.

According to a study that has yet to be peer reviewed, variant C.1.2 was first identified in South Africa and has been circulating since May 2021. It has since been detected in at least seven other countries.

WHAT IS VARIANT C.1.2?

The South African researchers said in their Aug. 24 publication that the C.1.2 variant shares some mutations with all four variants of concern, and has a number of additional mutations. The researchers added that the mutations C.1.2 has in common with the variants of concern are associated with more transmissibility and antibody-evading properties, but that it's too early to confirm if C.1.2 will share these traits.

They are also working to confirm if the additional mutations will make the variant spread more or less effectively.

The World Health Organization is currently tracking four variants of concern: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. There are also five variants of interest being tracked closely by the WHO. Variant C.1.2 does not fall under either category.

The new variant is not yet named according to the new convention adopted by the WHO because it is not considered a variant of concern or a variant of interest. If the WHO change their opinion on the C.1.2 variant, it will then be assigned a Greek alphabet designation.

SHOULD CANADIANS BE CONCERNED?

Currently, variant C.1.2 has not been found in Canada, but all four variants of concern have been. Delta is the dominant strain across the country.

The WHO has said that they were first made aware of C.1.2 in July 2021.

"WHO is in touch with researchers in South Africa, who first presented their findings on the variant C.1.2 to the WHO Virus Evolution Working Group in July 2021," the WHO said in a statement to CTVNews.ca on Tuesday. "Thanks to these scientific collaborations, WHO is able to quickly monitor and assess variants, and alert the world of any risk posed by these variants.

According to WHO, about 100 sequences of the C.1.2 variant have been reported around the world dating back to the original identified in South Africa in May.

"As of now, it does not appear to be increasing in circulation," they added.

According to a press release by the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa, C.1.2 has been detected in all South African provinces. It currently makes up less than 2 per cent of genomes in South Africa.