The vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE may offer some protection against a mutation in the new, rapidly spreading variants of the coronavirus that have emerged from the UK and South Africa, according to a recent study.
thestudy, by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch and supported by Pfizer and BioNTech, has shown that the vaccine is likely to generate a protective immune response against novel coronavirus variants carrying the so-called N501Y mutation in the spike protein of virus. The study was published ahead of publication and peer review.
The research examined the response to the mutant viruses in blood sera collected from 20 people vaccinated with the companies’ mRNA vaccine. The research did not investigate other mutations in the spike protein. Still, the results were consistent with the response to a panel of so-called pseudoviruses spiked with other mutations found in circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains, they said.
Executives at BioNTech – as well as Moderna Inc., the developer of a rival mRNA vaccine – said they believed their vaccines would protect against the new strains. The University of Texas study is one of the first to support these claims.
The research comes as Covid-19 spreads around the world at record daily levels, likely accelerated by the new strains, and countries begin to roll out their vaccines. The new British variant, which has been identified in the United States as well as countries from South Korea to Canada, is believed to be 57% to 70% more transmissible than other strains of the virus.
Viruses have the ability to change through mutations that occur naturally as they replicate and circulate in their hosts. Some, like the flu, evolve rapidly with thousands of mutations and distinct lineages, while others are more stable.
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