Corona vaccines: Antibodies also work with Indian mutations

Corona mutations make it difficult for scientists worldwide to assess the course of infection and assess the effectiveness of vaccines. After the British variant B.1.1.7, the mutation B.1.617, which was mainly detected in India, is of particular concern. The first studies and investigations confirm the effectiveness of the previously approved corona vaccines against the Indian mutation.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the corona variant B.1.617 has occurred 51 times in Germany (as of May 18, 2021) – but rapid spread is quite possible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the Indian mutation as a “variant of concern” in early May. So far, the British, South African and Brazilian variants have also been included in this classification. The reasons for this are the high risk of infection and the possibility of a reduced immune response, WHO scientist Maria Van Kerkhove announced.

Corona vaccines protect against Indian mutation

According to promising initial findings, both the vector vaccine from  AstraZeneca  and the mRNA vaccine from BioNTech/Pfizer and  Moderna  appear to offer vaccination protection against the corona mutation.

Scientists checked blood serums of those who had already recovered and those who had been vaccinated with the vaccine “Covidshield”, the Indian  corona vaccine  from AstraZeneca. First results show an immune response of recovered and vaccinated persons against the B.1.617 variant.

According to the first unpublished studies, the  mRNA vaccines  from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna can also protect against the Indian mutation. The vaccines also show a high level of effectiveness against severe courses in genome modifications of the South African, British and Brazilian variants. Experts therefore also assume that there is sufficient protection against B.1.167.

How dangerous is the B.1.617 mutation?

In India, 70 percent of corona infections are currently due to the B.1.167 mutation.  According to experts, these three changes are particularly important within the  amino acids of the virus:

  • E484Q is the first mutation within the virus.  This also occurs in a structurally similar form in the South African and Brazilian variants, where it bears the name E484K. Such a change has recently also been seen in the structure of the British corona mutation B.1.1.7. E484K reacts less to neutralizing antibodies that have already formed. The extent to which this also applies to the E484Q mutation is currently being checked in laboratory tests – however, a serum made from antibodies from patients who have already recovered has only had a limited effect in initial tests.
  • As in the Californian variant B.1.429, the L452R mutation is present in the structure of the Indian mutation. This change within the virus could weaken both antibodies from people who have already recovered and monoclonal antibodies.
  • P681 occurs in both the Indian and British Corona mutations.  These amino acids are located next to the furin cleavage site of the spike protein and can affect how the viral membrane binds to the cell membrane. However, how this process could increase the risk of infection needs to be examined.

How dangerous the Indian variant could be due to its increased number of changes needs to be investigated more intensively. The scientists at the RKI have not yet classified the mutation as a cause for concern, but according to the RKI, it will nevertheless monitor the mutation intensively.

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