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COVID-19: Scientists Fear 'escape Mutant' Could Decrease Vaccine Efficacy

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have now identified ‘escape mutant’ that might have ability to decrease the efficiency of recently-developed vaccines.


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have now identified ‘escape mutant’ that might have the ability to decrease the efficiency of vaccines. The mutation named E484K has been reportedly found in the variant of the novel coronavirus that was first spotted in South Africa nearly two months ago but has now spread to at least 12 more countries. As per the CNN report, Penny Moore, associate professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa called the mutation ‘alarming’.

"We fear this mutation might have an impact, and what we don't know is the extent of the impact," she said.

E484K is called an “escape mutant” because it is showing that it might be able to ‘escape’ some of the antibodies produced by the COVID-19 vaccines. Moore along with other scientists are studying this new kind of mutation in the new variant but still have to conclude tier work in the lab to determine if the vaccine is less effective against the new strain or not.

As per the report, the scientists are expected to reveal the results in the next few weeks about the variant that has drastically spiked the new infections in South Africa. However, based on the research done on the ‘escape mutant’ so far, scientists highly doubt that E484K will render the coronavirus vaccines useless. But they think the single mutation or its combination with other modifications in the variant, could jointly decrease the efficacy of the vaccine.

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What is changed in South African variant?

As per reports, the new 501.V2 variant in South Africa is also being linked to the drastic speed of transmission of the second wave that also infects younger patients.  South African Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize reportedly also said on December 18 the new strain has been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The South African health minister has also revealed that elements related to the new coronavirus strain “strongly indicate” that the second wave in the nation is “carried” by the new variant as nearly 90% of the samples tested in the country contain the new strain. As per reports, unlike other mutations that eventually die away, the 501.V2 has key changed in the part of the pathogen that helps it to stick to host cells in humans. It is also the same part of the virus which is impacted by the vaccines and antibody therapies.

Read - 'Vaccine Less Effective': WHO Chief Scientist Raises Concern Over South African Variant

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