A new study of SARS-CoV-2 variants in the UK and South Africa predicts that existing vaccines and certain monoclonal antibodies will be less effective at neutralizing these coronavirus variants. Re-infections of those who have been ill are becoming more and more likely.
The study of new variants of the coronavirus was published in Nature on March 8, 2021, following a preprint in January. Scientists’ predictions are supported by the first results of the Novavax vaccine. The company said on January 28 that the vaccine was nearly 90% effective in trials in the UK, but only 49.4% in South Africa. There, most cases of COVID-19 are caused by variant B.1.351 coronavirus.
“Our research and new data from clinical trials show that the virus is eluding our current vaccines and treatments,” said David Ho, MD, director of the Aaron Diamond Research Center. then we may be doomed to the constant pursuit of the developing SARS-CoV-2. “
After vaccination, the immune system reacts and produces antibodies that can neutralize the virus.
Scientists found that antibodies in blood samples taken from people vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine were less effective at neutralizing two variants: B.1.1.7, which appeared last September in England, and B.1.351, in South Africa. at the end of 2020. According to the British version, neutralization decreased by about 2 times, and according to the South African version – by 6.5-8.5 times.
The new study did not investigate the more recent variant found in Brazil (B.1.1.28) But given similar spike mutations between the Brazil and South African variants, Ho says the Brazil variant should behave similarly to the South African variant.
We must stop the replication of the virus, which means faster deployment of the vaccine, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Stopping the spread of the virus will also stop the development of further mutations.
David Ho, MD, Director of Aaron Diamond Research Center
The study also found that some of the monoclonal antibodies currently used to treat COVID-19 patients may not work against the South African variant. And based on the results with plasma from patients who were previously infected during the pandemic, variant B.1.351 from South Africa could cause reinfection.
Recall that monoclonal antibodies are antibodies developed in a laboratory and administered to patients as part of specialized therapy. These antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) trigger a targeted response from the body to protect it from attack by foreign antigens.