Scientists have discovered an “escape mutant” that may reduce the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The mutation-called E484K-was discovered in a variant of the coronavirus that was first discovered in South Africa two months ago. The variant has now spread to 12 other countries.
Penny Moore, an associate professor at the South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases, called this mutation an “alert.”
She said: “We are worried that this mutation may have an impact, and we don’t know the extent of the impact.”
E484K is called an “escape mutant” because it has been shown to escape certain antibodies produced by the vaccine.
“I am worried,” said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the African Institute of Health.
Sigal, Moore and other scientists who are studying the E484K mutation still have to do their work in the laboratory to see if the vaccine is less effective against this new variant.
Based on what they have seen so far, they said they highly doubt whether E484K will invalidate the coronavirus vaccine. Instead, they believe that this mutation (alone or in combination with other mutations) may reduce the efficacy of the vaccine against this variant.
They also worry that E484K may be a sign of the new coronavirus showing its ability to change before our eyes. If this mutation occurs within a few months, other problematic mutations may follow.
Andrew Ward, a structural virologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, said: “This virus may be taking the first step towards considerable vaccine resistance.”
Moore said: “This is the beginning of the long journey.” “This is what really shocked me. This is a shocking wake-up call.”
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