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VIRAL SURGE New Covid variant is ‘most mutated so far’ and already in UK, scientists warn

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A NEW Covid variant is the “most mutated so far”, scientists have warned. It is already in the UK, with cases of the faster spreading virus being carefully monitored.

This Covid variant, dubbed C.1.2, was first spotted in South Africa, and has been linked to increased transmissibility.

It could be more infectious than other mutations and have the potential to escape the effect of vaccines, scientists fear.

The strain was first identified by scientists in South Africa in May.

It has since been found in England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland.

The scientists said in a report, published in the journal Nature: “We describe and characterise a newly identified SARS-CoV-2 lineage with several spike mutations that is likely to have emerged in a major metropolitan area in South Africa after the first wave of the epidemic, and then to have spread to multiple locations within two neighbouring provinces.

“We show that this lineage has rapidly expanded and become dominant in three provinces, at the same time as there has been a rapid resurgence in infections.

“Although the full import of the mutations is not yet clear, the genomic and epidemiological data suggest that this variant has a selective advantage—from increased transmissibility, immune escape or both.”

The scientists found the variant has a mutation rate of about 41.8 mutations per year – this is nearly double the current global mutation rate seen in any other so far.   

Public Health England said earlier this month the C.1.2 mutation was among a clutch of ten variants being monitored.

The number of cases of this mutation is not known, with the figures not published.

This suggests the infections in the UK are small, and not a huge concern for the country yet.

If it began to spread and experts became particularly worried about the effect on the country, it would be moved into the category of variant under investigation, or variant of concern.

Last week we told how an expert warned of a new variant dubbed “Covid-22”, that could be more deadly than the world-dominating Delta.

Immunologist Professor Doctor Sai Reddy said we “have to prepare” for a new emerging variant in 2022 that could pose a “big risk”.

The Zurich-based scientist warned it was “inevitable” that concerning variants that already exist – like Delta (India), Beta (South African) and Gamma (Brazil) will combine to make a strain more capable.

Prof Reddy said: “Covid-22 could get worse than what we are witnessing now.

“If such a variant appears, we have to recognize it as early as possible and the vaccine manufacturers have to adapt the vaccine quickly.

“The emergence of this new variant is the big risk. We have to prepare for it.”

Sage, the group of scientists advising the UK Government, have said “vaccines do not provide absolute sterilising immunity”.

In a paper published on July 30, the group said the likelihood of Covid becoming more deadly was described as “likely” to a “realistic possibility”,  due to the virus still spreading at such a high level globally.

The document stressed the importance of keeping on stop of booster campaigns – the first of which could start in September.

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