(NEXSTAR) – Researchers in South Africa say they’ve identified another variant of COVID-19 that contains “concerning constellations of mutations.” A pre-publication version of a study posted online looks at a variant called C.1.2. The variant was discovered in May and is an offshoot of the Beta variant previously discovered in South Africa in January.
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Researchers say this version demonstrates a number of changes to the spike protein, which helps the virus latch on to healthy cells. Some spike protein mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility in other variants. It’s not yet known whether the mutations on C.1.2 will make it more transmissible or damaging.
According to The Hill, this version is “highly mutated” beyond all previous variants of concern, with between 44-59 mutations differing from the original Wuhan Hu-1 virus.
C.1.2 has not yet been identified as a “variant of concern” or given a name from the Greek alphabet, as with the Alpha, Delta and Gamma. The discovery in South Africa does not mean the variation originated there.
“C.1.2 has since been detected across the majority of the provinces in South Africa and in seven other countries spanning Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania,” researchers wrote.
The findings have yet to be peer-reviewed, but study co-author Tulio de Olivera, went on Twitter to provide some further context to the findings and explain the early glimpse at the team’s work.
“The reason why we decided to publish the preprint is that we see the C.1.2 persistence in South Africa and is now in another 10 countries,” he wrote, saying the pandemic necessitates that researchers, “share info quicker than later.”
Researchers further wrote that the “constellations of mutations” around C.1.2 made it worthy of highlighting.
Reuters reports that lab tests are now underway to determine how effective antibodies are at neutralizing the variant.