A new variant of coronavirus - C.1.2 - which has been detected in South Africa and some other countries, could be more infectious than earlier strains and may evade vaccines, said an infectious diseases consultant who is also a member of the Maharashtra COVID-19 task force on Thursday.
Dr Vasant Nagvekar, an infectious diseases consultant with a Mumbai's Global Hospital and a member of the government task force on COVID-19, said the new variant also has a mutation rate that is nearly "twice as fast" as the rate of other variants.
It requires more detailed study as we know very little about it, he said.
"A new SARS-CoV-2 variant, C.1.2, just identified in South Africa and other countries with concerns that it could be more infectious and evade vaccines. What sets this variant apart is the speed at which it is mutating. This variant is changing and mutating at a rapid rate which are seen in many variants of concern and variants of interest," he said in a statement.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus which causes COVID-19.
Masking, vaccination and avoiding major gatherings are precautions that need to be taken, Nagvekar said.
If one experienced symptoms associated with coronavirus, then that person should immediately get tested and opt for early treatment based on diagnostic result, he said.
Nagvekar, when asked about the number of different mutations, said there are COVID-19 variants of concern - Alpha, Deta, Gamma and Delta - and variants of interest - Ela, Lita, Kappa, Lamda and Mu.
He explained that variants of concern meant they showcased genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics like transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape.
Asked about details of the new variant, Nagvekar said experts are yet to ascertain what could be the symptoms, but they claim they may be similar to COVID-19 symptoms.
Coronavirus symptoms include fever or chills, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, among others.