Scientists in South Africa have found a new variant of Covid-19 that might be more dangerous. The South African variant has more mutations than previous versions of Covid-19 and appeared to be highly transmissible.
The new variant was originally discovered in May in the South African provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng. These provinces contain Johannesburg and South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. The variant has since spread to six other South African provinces and has also been found in the UK, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland.
Researchers called the variant C.1.2. and said that it is highly transmissible. They also claimed that it might have a larger impact on vaccinated individuals. “We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group,” said Adi Stern, professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel. The professor went on to say that “This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection.”
This new variant has more mutations than previous variants of Covid-19, including the original strain out of Wuhan, China. Scientists believed that it could outsmart the body’s antibodies. The C.1.2 variant originally mutated out of the C.1. variant which developed out of South Africa in mid-2020.
Researchers out of South Africa are mostly concerned about the number of mutations that the variant has. According to studies, the variant has about 44 to 59 different mutations compared to the original Covid-19 variant from the beginning of the pandemic. This rapid mutation is alarming to scientists who are concerned about how this new variant will act with the vaccines.
Scientists have also found another South African variant which they call B.1.351, and they believe that this variant has the potential to break through the Pfizer vaccine protection.
While scientists continue to watch this new South African variant, they believe that the reason it hasn’t spread more so far is because of the current outbreak of the Delta variant. The Delta variant, which was originally discovered in India, has caused a new surge of outbreaks among those who are not vaccinated. This variant has an increased risk of hospitalization and hospitals across the U.S. are being overwhelmed with patients who need beds.
According to a study done by Public Health England and the University of Cambridge and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, “The results suggest that patients with the delta variant had more than two times the risk of hospital admission compared with patients with the alpha variant.”
The Delta variant has also infected a small percentage of vaccinated individuals, but they were less likely to need hospitalization because their symptoms were less severe.
The CDC and the U.S government are working to get a booster shot available to individuals to help protect them from the new, more deadly strains of Covid-19. Some scientists believed that a booster shot is not needed and that an additional shot will cause vaccine inequality among individuals.
“There remains a lack of evidence that mutated strains cause more severe disease or significantly avoid vaccine protection against severe disease. There is also an increasing percentage of the population with some level of acquired immunity, either due to primary vaccination or infection. Additionally, the third dose in some populations may provide even more durable protection, further reducing the benefit of additional doses,” said Geoff Meacham, a research analyst for Bank of America Securities.