Recently, a new mutation of the new coronavirus variant discovered in the UK has caused widespread concern. This new mutation may help the virus avoid antibodies and affect the neutralizing effect of antibodies.
Based on the latest reports from the Washington Post and the American Life Sciences Network on the 2nd local time, on February 1st local time, according to a report issued by the Public Health Department of the United Kingdom, among approximately 214,000 genetically sequenced variant samples, They identified 11 samples that had a mutation called “E484K”. According to reports, this new variant of the coronavirus seems to limit the protection of the vaccine against new coronavirus infection. Britain is already struggling to deal with this “highly contagious and obviously more deadly” virus mutation.
On the streets of the UK, residents are going to be tested for the new coronavirus. Image source: American Life Science Network
CNN reported on the 3rd local time that the report also showed that some samples may have completed this mutation independently, rather than spread by a single case. Experts say this may mean that this known more contagious variant may also have a certain degree of resistance to the immune protection provided by the vaccine, or may be more likely to cause reinfection of people who have previously been infected with the virus.
E484K new mutation is not unexpected
According to reports, this worrying mutation occurred at a site called E484K on the viral RNA, which attracted the close attention of infectious disease experts, who gave it the nickname “Eeek”.
“The’Eeek’ mutation is actually not new: it has appeared in the genome sequence many times since the beginning of the new coronavirus pandemic, and virologists have long known that it has potential problems.” Senior Center for Disease Control and Prevention Said Greg Armstrong, director of the molecular testing program.
This mutation named “E484K” not only appeared in the British variant of the new coronavirus, but also appeared in the rapidly spreading variants in South Africa and Brazil, especially in the “B.1.351” first discovered in South Africa in October 2020. A variant of the new coronavirus. In recent days, this new mutation has also been discovered in some cases in the United States.
Previously, a variant of the new coronavirus named B.1.1.7 was first discovered in the UK in September 2020. It is more infectious than the earlier version of the new coronavirus and has spread worldwide. It is reported that these B.1.1.7 coronaviruses have acquired new mutations due to random replication errors when they reproduce in the human body. The evolutionary tree of coronavirus shows that 15 of the variants are derived from a common ancestor that acquired the E484K mutation.
Researchers from Aalborg University in Denmark analyzed the B.1.1.7 mutation in samples of the new coronavirus last month. Image source: “New York Times” official website
New variants may evade immune system attacks
The University of Cambridge virologist Rajiv Gupta and his colleagues posted a report on the Internet on the 2nd local time, reporting an experiment they conducted on the new mutation. They combined the E484K mutation with other key mutations originally found in the B.1.1.7 mutation in the UK. Studies have found that the addition of the E484K mutation makes it difficult for the antibody to prevent the virus from entering, and the antibody’s “neutralizing activity is significantly reduced.”
According to reports, the spike protein is the target of vaccines and many naturally-produced antibodies, and the E484K mutation changes the structure of the viral spike protein. Vaccine developers try to train antibodies to target recognizable invaders (new coronavirus) and destroy them. But in fact, this new mutation may reduce the ability of certain antibodies to neutralize or inactivate the virus before the virus enters the cell, making the virus more invisible, which may help the virus avoid detection and reduce the human immune system Neutralization efficiency is a problem that worries vaccine developers very much.
The report also said that British officials are also very worried about this mutation because it may affect the effectiveness of the new crown vaccine. Indeed, according to data from several vaccine manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, their new crown vaccines are not effective in South Africa where the B.1.351 mutant new crown virus is the dominant spread.
Screenshot of CNN report. Image source: CNN
“Washington Post” stated that the Public Health Department report also provided preliminary evidence that the lethality of the variant may increase by 65%.
But according to Armstrong and other scientists, the spread of new coronavirus variants has not changed our understanding of how the virus spreads, nor has it denied the need for vaccination. Disease experts emphasized that vaccines can provide us with protection and are still essential to “anti-epidemic”.
New mutations are currently very rare, and the spreading power has not yet been determined
However, according to the US “New York Times” report, the new mutation of E484K does not necessarily mean that the variant will become more infectious and vaccine resistant. This is because the E484K mutation may not have the same effect in the British variant as in the South African variant. The Times reported that the impact of each mutation on a particular strain depends on the precise genetic makeup of the strain, including all other mutations it carries.
At present, due to the British Ministry of Public Health, only 11 samples with new mutations of E484K have been found. Nicholas Davis, a mathematical biologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, said that because these new mutations are rare, it is difficult to say whether they will be more common than the B.1.1.7 variant.
Christian Anderson, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said: “It’s too early to speculate on new mutations. We have to wait for the data to speak.”
Foreign media reported that experts are still working hard to study how this new mutation will affect the new coronavirus.
“Through vaccination, the chances of the new coronavirus spreading from person to person are less, and people are less likely to be infected with the new coronavirus that has the E484K mutation or other dangerous variants.” Rajiv, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, UK · Gupta said on Twitter, “The best way to prevent mutated viruses is still to be vaccinated.”
Former British Secretary of Health Jeremy Hunt said that in order to stay one step ahead of the virus, a race to vaccinate as many people as possible is underway.
According to reports, measures such as washing hands, keeping distance from others, and wearing a face mask still help prevent infection.