New COVID variants keep coming, and the latest one is emerging from South Africa. While the highly contagious Delta variant continues to dominate the headlines, the new C.1.2 variant is starting to demand some attention.
Once again, it’s time to follow the science and learn all we can about this new variant. But, we obviously aren’t doctors. So after reading all of the data we’ve collected, we recommend clicking the links we’ve included so you can do your own homework, too. It’s also a great idea to talk to your doctor so you can determine the best course of action for you and your family.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new C.1.2 COVID-19 variant.
What Is The C.1.2 COVID-19 Variant?
A study recently posted on medRxiv—which is a preprint that has not yet been peer-reviewed—details how the C.1.2 variant has evolved from C.1. A preprint study is new medical research that has not been evaluated, so the findings have yet to be confirmed. But we do know that C.1 was the strain behind the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that caused COVID-19) infections in South Africa that emerged back in early 2020.
According to the report, the last time the C.1. strain was detected in South Africa was in January 2021. It wasn’t until May that the C.1.2 strain started to appear with “many mutations”. Researchers also noted that so far this new variant has only been detected in countries around Africa, Europe, and Asia during the third wave of COVID. It has not been detected in the United States.
Shape reports that the researchers found “that the C.1.2 variant contains many mutations that have been identified in the four COVID-19 variants of concern: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma.” That’s a lot of information to process, so let’s break it down even further.
Defining Variants Of Concern
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, a “variant of concern” (VOC) when it comes to COVID-19 is a variant where there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility and disease severity, as well as evidence of reduced effectiveness of treatments and vaccines.
The CDC has not added the C.1.2 variant to their VOC list yet, but they are definitely watching. The researchers noted in the medRxiv report that this new variant “contains multiple substitutions… and deletions… within the spike protein.”
One thing we’ve learned from this past year is that the spike protein is located on the outside of the virus and has the potential of attaching to your cells. This is exactly what causes COVID-19.
The numerous substitutions and deletions within the spike protein from the C.1.2 variant “have been observed in other VOCs and are associated with increased transmissibility and reduced neutralization sensitivity,” according to the research.
Should You Be Concerned?
We all know that when it comes to COVID, the news seems to change fairly often. But as of the publication of this article, the C.1.2 variant isn’t something to be worried about. The researchers who wrote the medRxiv report weren’t really sure what to make of this variant.
They explained that more work is needed to find out exactly how bad this variant is, and if it has the potential to wreak as much havoc as the Delta variant.
Maria Van Kerkhove, Ph.D.—the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 lead—took to Twitter recently and shared that the Delta variant is still the dominant variant based on available sequences through August 2021.
Infectious disease experts really aren’t too worried, either. As Dr. Amesh A. Adalja—senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security—explained, there are currently about 100 sequences that have been reported globally. And the C.1.2. variant doesn’t seem to be increasing.
Dr. William Schaffner—infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine—agrees. He explained that more variants will continue to show up as the research continues. But that’s not necessarily a reason to be scared.
“At the moment, this is not a major cause for concern,” Dr. Schaffner said. “The more we look, the more genetic sequencing we do, the more of these variants will show up. Some of them will spread and the question is, ‘Are they going to pick up steam?'”
Dr. Schaffner noted that some of the variants will “spread a little and not do much else.”
When it comes to C.1.2., Dr. Adalja says that there’s not enough information at this point to be able to assess what its future trajectory will be.
“However, the Delta variant—because of its fitness—makes it very hard for other variants to gain a foothold,” Dr. Adalja added.
The Good News
The Delta variant is the most contagious during this third wave of infections. However, Reuters reported this summer that the U.S. seven-day COVID-19 death average had fallen by 90% from its peak in January thanks to vaccinations and natural immunity. And it continues to fall every month.