Scientists state that “Runaway mutations” that may reduce the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The mutation, known as E484K, was found in the form of the corona virus first discovered in South Africa two months ago. The variant is currently spreading to 12 other countries.
Penny Moore, an associate professor at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa, called the mutation “shocking”.
“We fear this mutation might have an impact and what we don’t know is the extent of the impact,” she said.
E484K has been referred to as the “Escape mutant” because it has been shown to escape from certain antibodies produced by the vaccine.
“I’m worried,” said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute.
Sigal, Moore and other scientists studying the E484K mutation still need to work in the lab to see if the vaccine is less effective compared to this new variant.
From what they have seen so far, they say they strongly suspect the E484K will render the corona vaccine useless. But they think there is a possibility that mutations – in themselves or in combination with other mutations – might reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness against the variant.
They are also concerned that the E484K could be a sign that the new coronavirus is showing the ability to change before our eyes. If this mutation takes place within a few months, other problematic mutations may follow.
“This virus may be taking the first step towards vaccine resistance,” said Andrew Ward, a structural virologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.
“It was the beginning of a long journey,” says Moore. “That’s what really shook me about it, it was a sane wake-up call.”
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