NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the Delta COVID variant continues to infect people at an alarming rate, a new highly mutated strain of COVID-19 has emerged from South Africa.

As the Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt, Dr. David Aronoff closely monitors trends around the world.

“The variant which is the C.1.2 variant has modifications to the spike protein on the outside of the virus similar to what we’ve seen in other variants that would predict that the virus may be able to stick to our cells [easier] or be more sticky,” explained Aronoff. “Therefore, be more of a threat. We wouldn’t have to breathe in very much of the virus to be affected.”

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Other indicators show an increased possibility to evade antibodies.

“There are other modifications that would predict that it might be better able to reproduce to higher levels in our body. The thing that would be concerning to us is if there are enough modifications to the outside of the virus that our own antibodies, induced by either vaccination or previous infection, would make us more susceptible to this variant,” says Aronoff.

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While C.1.2 hasn’t been reported in the United States, it has been found in eight countries in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific. Studies are underway to see if the changes this mutation carries will wreak havoc to the same level the Delta variant has.

“What we’ve seen with the latest variant reported coming out of South Africa has more to do with the potential for causing more harm than what we’ve actually seen this variant cause,” said Aronoff.

He anticipates the numbers will be “available shortly” and “informative.”

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According to the World Health Organization, it’s too soon for the C.1.2 to be considered a “variant of interest” or a “variant of concern,” but it’s being monitored closely.