COVID-19: Evolving Virus Will “Condemn Us” to Chase for Vaccines

An academic study published on the 8th of March by Nature has predicted that “we may be condemned” to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 virus “continually” in a way that mirrors the “influenza virus”.

The accelerated article preview titled “Antibody Resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Variants B.1.351 and B.1.1.7” and conducted by Pengfei Wang et al., stated that the recent emergence of new strains in the UK and South Africa were a cause for concern due to their “purported ease of transmission and extensive mutations”. This is in spite of “multiple vaccine constructs” showing promise when directed towards the initial SARS-CoV-2 strain which emerged in 2019.

The paper reports that strains B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 are “raising concerns” due to their susceptibility to extensive mutations. These mutations could lead to antigenic changes which are “detrimental” to monoclonal antibody therapy (mAb). Monoclonal antibody therapy stimulates a patients immune system to attack a virus by binding monoclonal antibodies to a specific protein, therefore producing immunity. 

The study warned that both strains are resistant to neutralization by mAbs when directed towards the NTD supersite (the end of an amino acid chain or peptide). The paper asserts that the findings are “worrisome” and the emergence of the South African and British variants “marks the beginning of COVID-19s antigenic drift”:

“Mutationally, this virus is travelling in a direction that could ultimately lead to [the] escape from our current therapeutic inventions directed to the [virus]. If the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, then we may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for the influenza virus.”

The study concludes that “we [must] stop [the] virus transmission as quickly as is feasible, redoubling our mitigation measures and expediting vaccine rollouts”.



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