Mumbai: According to laboratory studies conducted by a UK drugmaker, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s Coronavirus vaccine has been found to be effective against new mutant Coronavirus variants found in Britain, South Africa.
An as-yet peer study of Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated that the vaccine was effective in neutralizing the virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein. The mutation may have been responsible for the greater infectivity and there was concern that it could also create virus neutralization antibody neutralization by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.
The study was done on blood taken from people who were given the vaccine. Its findings are limited because it does not look at the complete set of mutations found in any new version of the virus that spreads rapidly.
Dormitzer said it is encouraging that the vaccine is effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations the company has previously tested. “So we’ve tested 16 different mutations now, and none of them really have a significant effect. That’s good news,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t,” Dormitzer noted another mutation found in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation, is also concerning.”
Researchers plan to run similar tests to find out if the vaccine is effective against other mutations found in the UK and South African variants and more data is expected within the week. Scientists have expressed concern that vaccines are being released, perhaps they will not be able to defend against new variants, especially in South Africa. Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said this week that while both variants had some new features in common, the one found in South Africa “has a number additional mutations” that included more extensive alterations to the spike protein.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the one from Moderna Inc, which use synthetic messenger RNA technology, can be quickly tweaked to address new mutations of a virus if necessary. Scientists have suggested the changes could be made in as little as six weeks.
(With Agency Inputs)