- COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against the more infectious version of the coronavirus, first found in South Africa.
- New research suggests that the mutated strain may survive antibodies developed in response to vaccination or infection with the original version of the coronavirus.
- But Pfizer has said that it can update its shots to deal with the new variants in just six weeks.
- For more stories visit the Business Insider homepage.
First, there was little evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines would not work against mutated, more infectious versions of the virus that emerged in the past few months.
But preliminary research published this week suggests that a coronovirus variant found in South Africa in December may partially evade rescue vaccines manufactured in our body’s immune system.
Research has not yet been peer reviewed, but it suggests variants, known as 501Y.V2, may evade antibodies developed in response to vaccination or infection with the original version of the virus. This may mean that existing vaccines will not provide as much protection, and those who have already been infected with the original version of the virus may reconnect with the new strain.
Penny Moore, a researcher at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa and co-author of the new study, said during a webinar on Monday that data being compelling shows mutations in 501.Y.V2 as “problematic”.
Her group’s research found that in half of the samples studied in the lab, those recovered from COVID-19 were unable to stop the antibody variant in the blood.
Based on Penny’s data, David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke University Medical Center who was not involved in the study, has the possibility that the vaccine may be somewhat effective, but how little we don’t know. C.n.n.
Version can dodge the safety of our body
Antibodies are protective proteins that our immune system produces when it senses a foreign substance, or antigen, in the body. These proteins are generated during an infection, and they say that a vaccine motivates the body to build to prevent disease.
In general, antibodies fight infection by learning to recognize the virus and signal to the immune system that it must be destroyed. They bind the invader until it is wiped out. But if a virus is different enough from others to eject the detection-and-destruction mechanism of existing antibodies, it can wreak havoc.
South African researchers to see if antibodies developed in response to the original version of coronovirus serve to protect against new ones. They used blood samples from 44 patients recovered from COVID-19 before the 501.Y.V2 variant was detected.
Scientists exposed the blood to the new version and found that antibodies in half the samples were impotent against the strain. Antibodies in the other half of the sample reacted weakly.
These results “may reduce the efficacy of existing vaccines”, the team wrote. He also warns that people who have received the original coronovirus may be at risk of new infection from variants such as 501.YVV2.
In addition, Moore’s group found that three types of monoclonal antibodies designed to target coronoviruses – laboratory-made antibodies – were ineffective against variants. Doctors have used monoclonal antibodies to treat patients; The Food and Drug Administration has authorized two such treatments.
Still, Moore said more data are needed to draw more conclusions about how antibodies interact inside the body, especially among those who have been vaccinated. Research also did not look at other elements of the immune system, like B cells, which play an important role in developing new antibodies.
Nathan Gruba, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, said it’s hard to tell how much better laboratory tests translate to reality in the body. A 90% reduction in safety during a test “may still mean complete safety in humans,” he told the insider.
As the virus mutates, vaccines may need to be developed.
The 501Y.V2 variant has a specific mutation in the spike protein – the virus it uses to invade cells – which, according to Franco Balloux, have been shown to “reduce antibody recognition” among people who have undergone pre-infection or immunization. For “. University College London Genetics Institute.
Researchers in South Africa stated that other mutations in the spike protein contribute to the infectious growth of 501.Y.V2. This may explain why the country has been working so hard since November. In the last two months, the number of new coronovirus cases per day in South Africa has decreased from an average of 2,300 to 13,000. It hit a record high of nearly 22,000 cases on 8 January and the country’s test-positivity doubled in December. By the end of 2020, 501.Y.V2 had replaced almost all other versions of Coronavirus in South Africa.
It has spread to at least 20 countries.
Other variants such as those found in the UK have similar changes in their spike proteins. But a preliminary study by Pfizer-BioNTech found that the company’s coronavirus vaccine is effective against that variant.
Jesse Bloom, a biochemist at the Fred Hutch Institute in Seattle, said in a statement that he is “optimistic that current vaccines will continue to be quite useful,” although he said that as coronoviruses continue to develop, eventually the vaccines needed to be updated It is possible. “
An updated commentary may be ‘rapidly deployed’
All viruses are mutated. Most mutations are incompatible, but it sometimes appears that immunity weakens those who have acquired immunization or prior infection. For example, the flu mutates quickly, which is why we have to take a new flu shot every year, and why flu vaccines are not 100% effective.
Theo coronovirus is slower than the flu. This is why Trevor Bedford, a virologist at Fred Hutch, Predicted In April that “it will take enough time to interrupt a vaccine to adequately mute the virus for a few years.” But Bedford did not know how much the virus spread and how high case numbers climb; The more likely the virus has to spread (and therefore replicate), the more likely mutations become.
On Wednesday, Bedford Tweeted That the “emerging situation may be dealt with through the upcoming vaccine update.”
Pfizer’s partner Biotech said it could produce a new vaccine for a COVID-19 variant in about six weeks. Modern Chief Medical Officer, Tal Jakus said that his company’s process would also be expedited.
In a recent presentation at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jaks said, “I think our technology is actually very favorable for rapidly deploying vaccines based on the new version.”
This is because these mRNA vaccines do not contain dead versions of the virus, but rather have genetic instructions for the body to form one of the virus’s signature proteins internally, which can trigger an immune response. An easy switch is to break those instructions.
Then the decision to sign the revised vaccine will depend on the regulators.
Immunity to a virus is all or nothing
Even if the variants reduce how well current vaccines work, it does not mean that protection from infection disappears completely, experts say.
“We often talk about immunity, but that’s not all,” said Jenny Levine, Emory University’s postdoctoral biology researcher.
Lavine said that the ideal level of protection is neutralizing immunity – when “we have such good immunity in the right places that even the virus cannot replicate it.”
But there is a lot of middle ground between that and zero immunity. For example, Lavine said, “The virus may be able to replicate something, perhaps causing mild deformity, maybe migrating in a day or two instead of five or six days.”
He said: “The new variant is getting us all the way from sterilizing immunity to no immunity.
It also helps that existing vaccines are highly effective against native viruses.
“Pfizer and Modern vaccines are 95% effective – this is an extraordinary level of efficacy,” Montefiori told CNN. “If it is reduced to 90, 80, 70%, it is still very, very good and has a major impact on the epidemic.”
Catherine Shuster-Bruce and Aria Bendix contributed to reporting this story.