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COVID-19 variant from South Africa declared the most ‘mutated’ virus, raising serious concerns

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coronavirus covid 19

By Jenny Goldsberry

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases found that the new COVID variant C.1.2 has “mutated substantially.” KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform also assisted in the research, according to the report.

Scientists write this variant appears to be more dangerous than previous variants, as stated in the report.

While 85% of cases came from South Africa, 5% were from the United Kingdom, 2% from New Zealand, 2% Switzerland and 2% from China. Small percentages also came out of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius and Portugal.

It is not the newest variant, but it was first discovered in May of this year. Since then, it’s been found to mutate 41.8 per year at nearly twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants.

“While these mutations are not characteristic of current VOCs/VOIs, they have been associated with escape from certain class 3 neutralising antibodies,” stated the authors of the study.

Its mutations “have been associated with escape from certain class 3 neutralizing antibodies,” the report reads. This included antibodies found in those that contracted the Alpha and Beta variants. Yet, they are still assessing if this variant can similarly neutralize the vaccine.

We have identified a new SARS-CoV-2 variant assigned to the PANGO lineage C.1.2. This variant has been detected throughout the third wave of infections in South Africa from May 2021 onwards and has been detected in seven other countries within Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The identification of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants is commonly associated with new waves of infection. Like several other VOCs, C.1.2 has accumulated a number of substitutions beyond what would be expected from the background SARS-CoV-2 evolutionary rate. This suggests the likelihood that these mutations arose during a period of accelerated evolution in a single individual with prolonged viral infection through virus-host co-evolution1921. Deletions within the NTD (like Y144del, seen in C.1.2 and other VOCs) have been evident in cases of prolonged infection, further supporting this hypothesis2224. C.1.2 contains many mutations that have been identified in all four VOCs (Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma) and three VOIs (Kappa, Eta and Lambda) as well as additional mutations within the NTD (C136F), RBD (Y449H), and adjacent to the furin cleavage site (N679K). Many of the shared mutations have been associated with improved ACE2 binding (N501Y)2529 or furin cleavage (H655Y and P681H/R)3032, and reduced neutralization activity (particularly Y144del, 242-244del, and E484K)17,3339, providing sufficient cause for concern of continued transmission of this variant. Future work aims to determine the functional impact of these mutations, which likely include neutralizing antibody escape, and to investigate whether their combination confers a replicative fitness advantage over the Delta variant.

Read the report here.

Now the report awaits peer review.

You can follow Jenny Goldsberry on Twitter @jennyjournalism.

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College to begin offering abortion pill on campus

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Barnard College, a partner campus of Columbia University, will be rolling out a plan in May that involves supplying students with abortion pills, the Columbia Spectator reported. The plan to provide the abortion service in the form of mifepristone abortion pills to students was initially announced in the fall of 2022 after the overturning of Roe. V Wade, according to the Spectator. However, the rollout’s delay has been partially attributed to an August 2023 grant the college received, which allowed Barnard to join a large network of primary care providers that will help steer the college through the procedures.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reports Barnard’s Primary Care Health Service will host student focus groups in upcoming weeks to find out student perspectives about the service and to identify new ways to support students considering abortion. “We wanted to make sure that we’re addressing this from every angle that will be supportive of students,” Sarah Ann Anderson-Burnett, director of Medical Services and Quality Improvement of Barnard, told the Spectator. Anderson-Burnett also said it has expanded the availability of its abortion providers to after-hours and year-round.

Barnard has six medical professionals, including two physicians and four nurse practitioners, who are capable of performing the procedure, Mariana Catallozzi, vice president for Health and Wellness and chief health officer of Barnard, told the Spectator. The school also launched a partnership with AccessNurse, a medical call center that will assist with patient concerns related to abortions.

“The training doesn’t end with the clinicians,” Anderson-Burnett told the Spectator. “Clinicians are trained on the actual provision, but there’s also an overall training that will be provided to key partners and stakeholders across the campus because we want every step, every touchpoint, to be supportive and to be trauma-informed and to be patient-valued and centered but also respect confidentiality and privacy.”

The University of Massachusetts Amherst spent more than $650,000 to stock abortion pills in March 2023 at the request of Democratic Maryland Gov. Maura Healey. Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill in May 2023 forcing college in the state to stock abortion pills on campus.

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