US pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine appears to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new strain of coronavirus detected in Britain and South Africa.
According to the not-yet peer-reviewed laboratory study conducted by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, it indicated that the Covid-19 vaccine was effective in neutralising the killer virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
One of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists, Phil Dormitzer was quoted saying that the mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility. Also there had been concern that the mutation could make the killer virus escape antibody neutralisation elicited by the vaccine, said the scientist as quoted by news agency Reuters.
The study was carried out on blood taken from people who had been given vaccine shots. The reports had limited findings because it did not look at the full sequence of mutations found in either of the new variants of the coronavirus.
It was encouraging that the vaccine appeared effective against the mutation, including on 15 other mutations that the company had previously tested against. None of them had any significant impact, said Dormitzer. He also noted that another mutation detected in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation was also concerning.
The researchers have planned to run similar tests to see if the vaccine proves effective against other mutant variants of the UK and South Africa. They have hoped to have more data ready within weeks. Although, the scientists have said that vaccines rolled out may not prove effective against the new variants, particularly that emerged in South Africa.
While both variants contain some new features in common, while the South African variant has a number of additional mutations, which included more extensive alterations to the spike protein, said Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading.