New Mutation in COVID UK Variant



Day 314: Stay Safe Minnesota

According to a new study, a new mutation in dominant UK’s B.1.1.7 variant allow Covid-19 to escape antibody protection raising fear of becoming resistant to the vaccination.

According to a recent report by Public Health England (PHE) a new mutation (called E484K) that could allow Covid-19 to escape antibody protection has now been found in samples of a rapidly spreading strain in the UK. The new E484K mutation is part of the genetic signature of variants linked to South Africa and Brazil, CNN Health reports.

According to the BBC News, there have been 11 cases in Bristol and a cluster of 32 cases in Liverpool. additionally, PHE scientists also detected in at least 11 samples of the UK’s B.1.1.7 ‘Kent’ variant which appears to have occurred independently, instead of spreading from a single case.

“It is likely there may be more cases that haven’t yet been found. The Liverpool area has seen 32 cases of original coronavirus that have the E484K mutation too” BBC News reports.

Dr Julian Tang, a virus expert at the University of Leicester, described the finding as “a worrying development, though not entirely unexpected. It was important people follow the lockdown rules and get cases of coronavirus down to prevent opportunities for the virus to mutate further. Otherwise not only can the virus continue to spread, it can also evolve.

“If this E484K mutation is acquired by most of the UK B.1.1.7 variants, the recent reassurances from recent studies showing that the mRNA vaccines” – like those from Moderna and Pfizer – “will still offer optimum protection against the original UK variant may no longer apply”.

Julian Tang in a statement (source: ScienceAlert)

Joseph Fauver, associate research scientist in epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health told CNN Health “This doesn’t appear to be great news for vaccine efficacy. The new finding is also something to keep monitoring in the US, where efforts to look for variants through genetic sequencing have lagged behind the UK. The fact that we’ve only seen this in the UK ‘may be a result of their robust genomic surveillance program‘ “.

Immune Escape

In the Science Alert, Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce writes “The coronavirus variant first found in the UK and spreading around the world appears to be evolving a mutation that scientists fear could help the virus evade vaccines.”

According to some studies, the E484K variant may help the virus evade parts of the immune system called antibodies, however studies from Moderna suggests their vaccine is still effective against variants with this mutation – although the body’s immune response may not be as strong or prolonged.

CNN Health writes “there is some research suggesting that E484K may be a key culprit behind why certain vaccines appear less effective in South Africa” a phenomenon called “escape mutant“. According to a new study findings, antibodies from vaccinated people were less effective at neutralizing a synthetic virus resembling both mutations (B.1.1.7, plus E484K) as reported in the PHE report.

“Adding the E484K mutation appeared to raise the bar for the level of antibodies needed to prevent the lab-made virus from infecting cells, when compared to B.1.1.7 mutations on their own,” reports CNN Health.

BBC News reports that experts believe in the worst case scenario, a new vaccines could be redesigned and tweaked to be a better match in a matter or weeks or months. “This gives us a sign that it has certain favored routes – and we can work to block those off with a vaccine,” Prof Ravi Gupta from the University of Cambridge, told the BBC News.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told in MSNBC interview on Wednesday:

“We know that some of the variants have increased transmissibility, there’s increasing data that suggests that some of the variants, the B.1.1.7 variant may actually … lead to increased mortality, and the jury’s still out with regard to how these vaccines are going to work with against these variants.”

“Whatever changes had occurred in the B.1.1.7 or any other virus variant, standard measures to restrict transmission – handwashing and social distancing, for example – would help to prevent infection,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick.

Category 5 Hurricane

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told on CNN’s “New Day” that the UK coronavirus variant like a “Category 5 hurricane” churning off the coast.

It’s going to take much more than vaccine to keep this variant at bay and not to have potentially a major surge in just the weeks ahead.

Michael Osterholm On CNN New Day, Feb 04, 021 (source: CNN)

“I think amongst my colleagues, they would agree that this variant from the United Kingdom, which is now beginning to circulate much more widely in the United States, poses a huge challenge to us. And that in just a few weeks, we could be seeing case numbers increase very dramatically,” told Osterholm to CNN.

COVID-19 Vaccination Watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Feb 05, 9 a.m.) 58,380,300 doses have been distributed and 36,819,212 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of Feb 03) a total of 637,015 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of Feb 05, 11 a.m.) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 466,224 (out of 6,717,419 tested) with 6,273 deaths.