Scientists have warned of the dangers of new coronavirus concerns
Experts of the American National Institute for the Study of Allergic and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), led by the chief infectious disease specialist of the United States Anthony Fauci, published an article in the journal JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, in which they describe the process of occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 mutations, and also express concern about the effectiveness of already registered vaccines against new strains of coronavirus.
Over the past few months, many variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have emerged. They emerged so quickly that the World Health Organization (WHO) did not have time to approve the appropriate nomenclature of new strains. The names B. 1.1.7 for the so-called “British” variant and B. 1.351 for the strain first identified in South Africa appear in the literature.
Emerging data on these variants suggest that they are highly transmissible and virulent, meaning that they are transmitted and spread faster and more easily.
According to the authors of the article, the new strains can carry several different mutations, of which the most dangerous are changes in the spike protein of the virus, which is used to enter cells and infect them. It is this protein that many COVID-19 vaccines target, and its mutations can cause vaccines to be less effective.
The researchers also note that the B. 1.351 variant may be partially or completely resistant to certain SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies currently approved for use as therapeutic agents.
“The B. 1.351 strain is less effectively neutralized by the plasma of patients recovering from COVID-19 and sera from those vaccinated with several vaccines under development. The reduction in neutralization can be more than 10 times in the case of plasma from convalescents and 5-6 times for serum from vaccinated patients, ” the authors write.
Experts emphasize that as long as SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread, it can develop into new variants, and it is too early to believe that existing vaccines will provide reliable protection. Another confirmation of this is the appearance of a new emergent strain 20C/S:452R in California, which accounted for 44 percent of the samples collected in this state in January 2021. It has three amino acid changes in the spike protein.
Scientists warn that there is still a long fight against SARS-CoV-2, which will require long and regular observations around the world, as well as efforts to develop a universal vaccine against COVID-19, which protects against all or at least most variants of the coronavirus.
Program for the development of universal vaccines against other diseases with the changing nature of the virus, such as influenza, already exist in many countries. It is necessary to adopt similar programs for the new coronavirus infection, the authors of the article believe.