The vaccination drive against COVID-19 is going on across the world. But, at the same time, we are also seeing an emergence of new strains and mutations of the virus that causes this deadly contagious disease. After the UK variant of the novel coronavirus causes alarm across the world, the South African and Brazilian variants have kept the scientific community on their toes. What does this mean for the existing vaccines? Will vaccine recipients enjoy protection against these mutations? This is a question that is being increasingly asked nowadays, not only in the scientific community but also by general people. Many companies have sounded an alarm regarding this. Now, a new study sheds more light on this. The South African variant of COVID-19 may significantly reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as per a laboratory study, the pharmaceutical companies said. However, human trials are still to be conducted in this regard. Also Read – Ibuprofen Drug Safe For COVID-19 Patients, Doesn't Raise Death Risk: Study
Virus neutralization happened to an extent
According to the study, although the study results indicated a reduction in neutralisation of virus with all the South African variant spike glycoprotein mutations, the vaccine was still able to neutralise the COVID-19 virus. This finding is consistent with recent reports of the neutralisation of variant SARS-CoV-2 or corresponding pseudoviruses by convalescent or post-immunisation sera, the companies said in a statement on Wednesday. The New England Journal of Medicine, published this study. Also Read – Organ Transplant Patients May Get Infected With COVID-19 Even After Second Vaccine Dose
Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) investigated the full set of South African variant (also known as B.1.351 lineage) spike mutations. To this aim, three genetically engineered recombinant viruses were produced. One virus had the full set of spike glycoprotein mutations found in the South African variant and the other two had subsets of these mutations. The viruses were tested against a panel of sera from 15 participants in the previously reported Phase 3 trial who had been immunised with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Also Read – Coronavirus In India: 5 Breathing Exercises To Improve Your Lung Power Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Pfizer taking steps to develop updated mRNA vaccine
Pfizer-BioNTech said they are taking the necessary steps, making the right investments, and engaging in the appropriate conversations with regulators to be in a position to develop and seek authorisation for an updated mRNA vaccine or booster once a strain that significantly reduces the protection from the vaccine is identified, the company said.
Company is looking into the Brazilian variant too
Pfizer-BioNTech are currently evaluating neutralisation of SARS-CoV-2 with the Brazilian strain spike mutations, as well as mutations from other emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, and they continue to conduct studies to monitor the vaccine’s real-world effectiveness. The pharmaceutical companies believe that the flexibility of BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA vaccine platform is well suited to develop new vaccine variants, if required. (With inputs from IANS)