New study suggests that the new variant of the coronavirus ‘501Y.V2’ has mutations in nine parts of its spike protein, which enables it to infect human cells as it can likely escape “neutralization” by antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients.
According to the yet-to-be peer reviewed study, published in the preprint platform BioRxiv, this new variant of the coronavirus — 501Y.V2, has mutations in nine parts of its spike protein, which enables it to infect human cells. In the research, the scientists, including those from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, tested the neutralization activity of plasma from patients who recovered from prior infection with other strains of the coronavirus against the 501Y.V2 variant.
The scientists discovered that nearly half — 21 of 44 of the samples had no detectable neutralizing activity against this variant. According to the scientists, 501Y.V2 shows “substantial or complete escape from neutralizing antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma.”
This new findings is believed to underscore the prospect of reinfection with such distinct variants of the virus carrying these mutations, and “may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”
Speaking on the concerning development, Liam Smeeth, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, described the findings as “potentially concerning,”.
However, he said “it would be unwise to extrapolate to clinical effects in humans at this stage.” Smeeth said the study does, however, raise the possibility that immunity gained from past COVID-19 infection may be lower for re-infection with the South African variant. .