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NICD Prof: Fears that new variant with multiple mutations could escape vaccines

25 November 2021 6:38 PM
Tags:
nicd
vaccines
virologist
Prof Penny Moore

Afternoon Drive host John Maytham chats to the NICD's Prof Penny Moore about the new variant of concern.
  • There are fears that the new Covid-19 variant detected in SA could be more transmissible than previous variants of concern
  • The variant B.1.1.529 has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong
  • The NICD's Prof Penny Moore says the variant has 10 mutations, eight more than the Delta strain

Image: © anawat/123rf.com

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed the detection of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa that has multiple mutations which could pose a potential threat.

NICD virologist Professor Penny Moore says the variant, which goes by the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529 has 10 mutations, compared to the highly contagious Delta variant which only had two.

Prof Moore says some of the new variant's mutations have immune escape properties "so that means that the virus is likely to be less sensitive to anti-bodies".

Experts say it's not yet clear whether the current programme of Covid-19 vaccines in SA will work against the new variant.

''What concerns us, even more, is that there are many more mutations in this new variant that we have not studied before because we have never seen them before, and from where they are located, they may well be important for helping the virus escape from both vaccine responses and anti-bodies that were triggered by previous infection", the expert tells CapeTalk.

We are a little concerned by this... it contains more mutations than we have ever seen in a SARS-CoV-2 variant before. Many of them are located in parts of the virus spike that we know are really important from an immune evasion point of view.

Prof Penny Moore, Acting Head of HIV Virology Section - National Institute for Communicable Diseases

For example, in the receptor-binding domain of the spike - the specific part of the spike that's responsible for binding to the host cell - in Beta we saw three mutations, in Delta we saw two, but in this particular variant, we see 10 mutations. So, it's picked up a lot of mutations and it's picked them up very fast

Prof Penny Moore, Acting Head of HIV Virology Section - National Institute for Communicable Diseases



25 November 2021 6:38 PM
Tags:
nicd
vaccines
virologist
Prof Penny Moore

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