Speed Reads

keeping an eye out

A highly-mutated coronavirus variant seems to only be spreading slowly so far

Scientists are keeping an eye on a coronavirus variant, known as C.1.2, that was first detected in South Africa in May because it has characteristics similar to other mutated forms of the virus that have become more transmissible. A study also found that it is further away from the original COVID-19 strain than any other variant. For now, though, researchers aren't panicking.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the variant "does not appear to be increasing in circulation," and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa said that while C.1.2 has been detected in all nine of the country's provinces (as well as a few other places around the world), it's only been detected at a low rate. Per Forbes, the variant made up just 1 percent of all sequenced cases in South Africa in June. That did rise to 3 percent in July, but the more famous Delta variant still appears to be quite dominant, accounting for 67 percent and 89 percent of South African infections in June and July, respectively.

In fact, Delta may be one of the things that prevents C.1.2 from becoming a greater concern. "C.1.2 would have to be pretty good, pretty fit, and pretty fast to outcompete Delta at this stage," Dr. Megan Steain, a virologist at the University of Sydney's Central Clinical School, told The Guardian. "I think we're still very much at a point where this could die out, the prevalence is really low."

Still, scientists and health agencies like the WHO will continue to monitor the variant. Read more at The Guardian and Forbes.