UK Covid-19 variant has mutated again, may reduce vaccine effectiveness: Scientists

Grant Boone
February 4, 2021

The E484K mutation that occurred spontaneously in Britain has already been reported in a technical briefing published by Public Health England, but this paper has not been widely noticed outside scientific circles.

Possibly, there may be more occurrences that have not yet been discovered.

"Of particular the emergence of the E484K mutation (found in the South African variant), which so far has only been seen in a relatively small number of individuals", Ravi Gupta, a professor at Cambridge University's Institute of Therapeutic Immunology & Infectious Disease and co-lead of the study, said.

Unlike the N501Y mutation that made the United Kingdom variant more contagious, the E484K mutation switches a negatively charged acid for a positive one, making it incredibly hard for a bodies antibodies to identify and latch onto the virus, similar to reversing a magnet's polarity. All kinds of viruses mutate as they replicate themselves to transmit and flourish.

However, the more concerning aspect of the variant's mutation is its ability to partially evade the defences vaccines build in our bodies' immune systems.

Liz Noakes, Telford and Wrekin's director of public health, said the developments illustrated the need to follow current lockdown guidelines - created to stop the transmission of the virus.

Scientists have already been inspecting what the new mutations might mean for existing COVID-19 vaccines designed around earlier versions of the coronavirus that started this global health crisis.

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Two new Covid-19 vaccines that could be approved soon - one from Novavax and another from Janssen - appear to offer some protection too, the report said.

"This is likely to be due, in part, to the E484K mutation which may weaken the immune response and also impact the longevity of the neutralising antibody response". Local authorities will also provide at-home test kits.

Just like other viruses, the novel coronavirus has been mutating with some variants putting the world on alert. Scientists studying the variant initially found 17 mutations, eight of which were present in the spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) mediating the attachment of the virus to the ACE2 receptor on the surface of human cells.

"It is the mutation causing the most concern in the "South African" and "Brazilian" variants".

"This will help us identify and nip this variant, which could be more transmissible, meaning that it could spread more quickly, in the bud".

"The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place, limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face".

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