Variant of virus that spreads in Britain may make vaccines less effective, study finds


Now it turns out that some B.1.1.7 coronaviruses in Britain also have the E484K mutation.

To look for new mutations, British researchers looked at the 214,159 coronavirus genomes the UK sequenced as of January 26. In its report, Public Health England said it found 11 samples of the B.1.1.7 variant that also contained the E484K mutation.

Since this analysis, more of these viruses have been discovered. NextStrain, a website where scientists collect and analyze coronavirus genomes, now identifies 16 B.1.1.7 variants that carry the E484K mutation.

These B.1.1.7 coronaviruses gained the mutation through random copy errors as they multiplied inside people. The coronavirus evolution tree suggests that 15 of the variants descend from a common ancestor who gained the E484K mutation. Meanwhile, the sixteenth variant seems to have gained the same mutation on its own.

Commenting on Monday’s report, Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Said it was still impossible to say whether the E484K mutation would make these coronaviruses not only more contagious but more resistant to vaccines. “It’s far too early to speculate if this will be the case, so we’ll have to wait for the data,” he said.

Just because the E484K mutation helps the B.1351 variant, the one originally found in South Africa, escape antibodies that it will in other variants as well. This is because mutations have no fixed effect. The impact of a single new mutation on a virus depends on what other mutations the variant already carries.

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Answers to your questions about vaccines

Currently, more than 150 million people – almost half of the population – are eligible for vaccination. But each state makes the final decision as to who goes first. The country’s 21 million healthcare workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open eligibility to all people 65 and older and adults of all ages with health conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill. or die from Covid-19. The adults of the general population are at the back of the pack. If federal and state health authorities can remove the bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine has not been approved in children, although studies are ongoing. It can take months for a vaccine to be available to anyone under the age of 16. Visit your state’s website for up-to-date information on immunization policies in your area.

You shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still get the vaccine at no cost. Congress passed a law this spring that prohibits insurers from enforcing any cost sharing, such as a copayment or deductible. It was based on additional protections prohibiting pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts fear that patients will stumble upon loopholes that expose them to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are charged a doctor’s visit fee with their vaccine, or to Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor or emergency care clinic, tell them about any hidden costs. To make sure you don’t get a surprise bill, your best bet is to get vaccinated at a health service vaccination site or local pharmacy once vaccines become more widely available.

This remains to be determined. It is possible that the Covid-19 vaccination will become an annual event, just like the flu vaccine. Or it could be that the benefits of the vaccine last for more than a year. We have to wait and see how durable the protection against vaccines is. To determine this, researchers will follow vaccinated people looking for “revolutionary cases” – those people who contract Covid-19 despite being vaccinated. This is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine will last. They will also monitor the levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of those vaccinated to determine if and when a booster injection might be needed. It’s conceivable that people will need boosters every few months, once a year, or just every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.

But in a report posted online Tuesday, Rajiv Gupta, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, and his colleagues reported on an experiment they conducted to answer exactly that question. They combined the E484K mutation with other key mutations found in the B.1.1.7 variant, the one originally found in Britain. The addition of the E484K mutation made it difficult for the antibodies to block the viruses. The researchers wrote that they “observed a significant loss of neutralizing activity”.

However, Dr Gupta and his colleagues used antibodies taken from people who had only received the first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It remains to be seen whether the B.1.1.7 variant with the new mutation, E484K, can escape antibodies after full vaccination.

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