New Coronavirus Mutation Evades Antibody Protection, Could Be Resistant To COVID Vaccine

'Worrying development' as 'mutation of concern' seen in UK coronavirus variant

Scientists working with Public Health England found a small number of cases of the UK "Kent" variant with the E484K mutation - it was seen in 11 out of 214,159 samples that they tested, and predominantly from the South West of England. The report said the mutation had been detected in 11 B.1.1.7 genomes, possibly as a result of "more than one acquisition event", suggesting that the 11 genomes were not all linked to each other and the mutation may have occurred spontaneously at separate locations.

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.

Dr Julian Tang, honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester, said the acquisition of the E484K mutation is "a worrying development, though not entirely unexpected." . "It can't keep mutating because it's going to lose the properties of being an all-around transmissible and pathogenic virus".

Otherwise, the expert explained, not only the virus can carry on to spread, it can evolve, as well.

The emergence of the mutation to the variant first discovered in Britain highlights how complicated exiting COVID-19 lockdown will be even once vaccines are rolled out. "The best way to stop the spread of the virus - including new variants - is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place", he said. Although, the immune response of the body may not be as strong or prolonged.

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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. These could also appear to provide good cover against strains, shielding from severe illness.

A silver lining may be that the variants are mutating in a similar way rather than diverging from each other. Some scientists have also raised concerns that the emerging new variants could jeopardise the effectiveness of now used COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile in Madrid, authorities warned that cases of the highly contagious British variant were growing exponentially and it would likely become the dominant strain across the region in a matter of weeks.

Protocols like hand-washing, social and physical distancing and wearing a face mask will still help in avoiding infections.

This potentially more concerning variant, which has been spotted since December 22 previous year and spread to almost 40 countries including the United States, emerged independently of B.1.1.7 or the UK variant and shares some mutations with the same.

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