Covid: South African variant may resist vaccine, a study reads

Published by Laurent P., Caroline J., My B. · Published on 21 January 2021 at 12h16 · Updated on 21 January 2021 at 13h45
After the United-Kingdom, it is South Africa that has scientists worried. They say a new variant of coronavirus found in the country is likely “more transmissible” than the previous strains already known, and may resist vaccines currently inoculated around the world, a study reads.

As several British variant cases have been found in France, the new South-African Coronavirus strain has scientists more and more preocuppied. According to scientists, this new strain found is “more transmissible” than the previous ones.

According to a preliminary study issued on January 19, and that consisted in the study of the plasma reaction in patients recovered from Covid, faced with this new variant, it is said to be "largely resistant to neutralizing antibodies", as well as vaccines. First results - yet to be proofed by a scientific committe. As for the virus mutation, it is set in the Spike protein and is called E484K. A mutation able to prevent antibodies from recognizing the virus, making their action useless.

A study that goes even further, explaining the risk of re-infection was high. "This is the problem many of us have been concerned about - immune escape from new SARS-CoV-2 variants in addition to their increased transmission" Scripps immunologist Kristian Andersen explained on Twitter. To fight against this variant, it is crucial vaccines can identify the mutation to stop the virus and change their vaccine accordingly.

This complication does not prevent France, while faced with the new British and South-African variants, to race  - Jean François Delfraissy said on TF1 on Tuesday January 12, 2021. He urges the people to "dramatically limit interactions between France and South Africa" where another variant - called 501Y.V2 - is spreading.

We believe, and all elements point in this direction, that this variant is more transmissible,” Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KRISP research institute. He says, “80 to 90%” of the genomes sequenced from the second half of November “exhibited this variant” he added. “We had never seen a single line dominate like this,” or “spread so quickly” he says, alarmed.

Still according to the conclusions of his study, this new variant “probably emerged in the Nelson Mandela Bay area” before spreading “to Cape Town, the most touristic region in the country”.

Conclusions that can explain the sharp increase in the new Covid-19 cases. On December 23, in the evening, 14,000 new cases have been reported in South Africa in 24 hours. These data show the virus is spreading “exponentially” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said. “We will surpass the peak of the first wave in the coming days” he warned.

So far, this Covid-19 variant applies to 90% of people tested in South Africa. Scientists say it does not lead to more serious forms of the diseases. Yet, the virus spreads more and much quicker, leading to the overwhelming to hospitals.

Scientists are paying closer interest in this variant and are now trying to know if vaccines developed against the first strain of coronavirus are as effective against this new strain of Covid-19 found in South Africa. Analyses are going on. BioNTech director says a vaccine against this new strain or another one could be remade if need be within six weeks.

For the record, on December 31, 2021, a first case of this variant has been recorded in Haut-Rhin, France. The man living by the Swiss border returns from a stay in South Africa. The Health Minister affirms the individual has now recovered and has complied with the health protocol during recovery, he “immediately self-isolated at home, as soon as symptoms broke out” and therefore “no at-risk contact has been identified”.

This Thursday January 14, the WHO convened an urgent gathering to assess the situation as for variants in order to deliver recommendations: The committee normally gathers every three months” this time “the WHO said the director-general pulled the meeting forward to consider issues that need urgent discussion. These are the recent variants and considerations on the use (of) vaccination and testing certificates for international travel" WHO explained on January 13 in the evening in a press release.

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