A study, not yet peer-reviewed, says the vaccine can combat variants discovered in the UK and South Africa.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine appears to work against a key mutation that integrates new variants discovered in the UK and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the U.S. drugmaker.
The study by Pfizer and scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch, not yet reviewed by peers, indicated that the vaccine was effective in neutralizing the virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
It is believed that mutation may be responsible for greater transmissibility. In addition, there was concern that it could also cause the virus to resist the neutralization of antibodies caused by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s leading viral vaccine scientists.
The study used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, concluding that the antibodies successfully resisted the new variants in laboratory tests. The findings are limited because research does not examine the full set of mutations found in the variants.
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Still, the scientist found it encouraging that the vaccine appears to be effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations that the company tested previously.
“We have now tested 16 different mutations and none of them have really had a significant impact. That is the good news,” he said.
But that does not mean that others cannot influence the vaccine’s effectiveness. Dormitzer noted that another mutation found in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation, is also of concern. The researchers, therefore, plan to run similar tests to see if the vaccine is effective against other mutations found in the UK and South Africa and hope to have more data within weeks.
This week, Professor of Cell Microbiology at the University of Reading, Simon Clarke, explained that while both variants have some things in common, the one found in South Africa “has an additional number of mutations” that include more extensive changes in the spike protein.
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, which use synthetic messenger RNA technology, can be quickly adjusted to deal with new virus mutations, if necessary.