Right when the world seemed to take a breath of relief from the pandemic owing to the newly developed vaccines, yet another variant of the deadly virus in South Africa raised concern. This variant is called 501.V2. According to scientists, a mutation called E484K has occurred in the spike protein of the virus and that has made the pathogen more infectious and life-threatening than the previously found UK variant. Scientists believe and state that UK variant is vulnerable to the newly developed vaccines but South African variant is different and likely to harm the effectiveness of the vaccines. Also Read - Can Pregnant Women Get The COVID-19 Vaccine? All You Need to Know
What Do Studies Say About The South African Variant?
During a recent research, scientists tested the Pfizer vaccine against one of the mutations that have occurred in the South African variant. They took 20 blood samples for the same and initial study results showed that the vaccine is effective against that mutation. But, that doesn’t prove that this virus is completely vulnerable to the vaccine as it has undergone various mutations and researchers have to test the vaccine’s effectiveness against all of those mutations. Also Read - Bhopal Man's Death 9 Days After Covaxin Trial Unrelated to Vaccine Dose: Bharat Biotech
According to a BBC report, Dr. Simon Clarke of the University of Reading states, “The South African variant has a number of additional mutations including changes to some of the virus’ spike protein which is concerning.”
Vaccines have been developed keeping in mind the original structure of the virus and its spike protein. Any change in that may affect the vaccine’s effectiveness. According to Dr. Clarke, “mutations cause more extensive alteration of the spike protein than the changes in the Kent variant and may make the virus less susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccines.”
The latest E484K mutation in the COVID-19 virus has been found to reduce antibody recognition and easily enter a human body. It makes the prior vaccination useless and affects the patient severely.
How Far The New COVID-19 Variant Has Reached?
Till now, apart from South Africa, the cases of the new variant have been reported by Austria, Japan, the UK, and Norway. Two people in the UK have been detected to have the mutant virus in their bodies. They both came in contact with people who travelled to South Africa.