Mutation in SARS-CoV-2 Variant Does Not Affect Vaccine: Study


New York: Serum samples from 20 people who received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 have thwarted a version of the coronavirus with the so-called N501Y mutation, according to a preprint recently published by bioRxiv. This mutation is one of many sequence changes in variants B.1.1.7 and 501.V2 of SARS-CoV-2 that were first detected in Great Britain and South Africa and are now rapidly spreading around the world.

“There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines won’t work as well on these strains,” University of Pennsylvania’s Frederic Bushman, who tracked how the virus mutated and was not involved in the work, told Associated Press. However, he adds that only one mutation was examined in the study and variants B.1.1.7 and 501.V2 have many more mutations that were not tested.

N501Y is found in the coronavirus spike protein that enables entry into host cells. Scientists from the Medical Department of the University of Texas at Galveston had already developed a version of SARS-CoV-2 with the N501Y mutation to study in mice when the new variants emerged, reports the Washington Post. The researchers worked with Pfizer scientists to expose serum – an antibody-containing component of blood – from vaccine recipients to the engineered virus, and found no differences in neutralization between the N501Y virus and the virus with the original Y501 sequence.

According to sources, Pfizer had previously challenged its vaccine against 15 other mutations and found none of them mattered. “We have now tested 16 different mutations, none of which had any really significant effects. That’s the good news, ”Philip Dormitzer, Pfizer’s vice president and chief scientist for viral vaccines, told the local media. “That doesn’t mean the 17th won’t be.”

In particular, scientists have raised concerns about a mutation in 501.V2 called E484K that will be tested next, Dormitzer told local media.

UTMB co-author Pei-Yong Shi tells local media that he expects to receive a viral variant next week to study in the lab. Moderna, AstraZeneca and other vaccine manufacturers are also in the process of challenging their vaccines with variants B.1.1.7 and 501.V2. Bushman tells the local media he expects similar positive results. “A mutation will change a small place, but it won’t disrupt the bond with everyone.”

However, vaccine developers have not ruled out the possibility of a variant developing that requires vaccine reformulation. “These data do not suggest a need for a change, but the mutations hit home close enough that we need to be prepared,” Dormitzer told the local media.

– Courtesy of The Scientist



Robert Dunfee