Covid-19: a variant more resistant to vaccines in South Africa?

The Covid-19 is still there, stronger than ever. The figures speak for themselves: the world recorded more than 478,000 new cases… during the day of January 1 alone. For a total approaching 87 million cases across the globe, including 1.8 million deaths.

However, a ray of hope has emerged on the horizon in recent weeks, with the approval of several vaccines and the launch of vast vaccination campaigns around the world.

Covid-19: a variant more resistant to vaccines in South Africa?
Pixabay credits

But the threat remains real, if only because of the many mutations that the virus is undergoing.

Covid-19, a virus that mutates a lot

Like all living organisms, viruses are indeed capable of adapting and evolving. SARS-CoV-2 is obviously no exception to the rule and we have thus recorded thousands of mutations since its appearance in China at the end of 2019.

However, in addition to these mutations, several variants of the virus have also been identified in recent weeks. One in South Africa, another in the UK. More contagious variants which seem to be on track to spread across the globe . The latter are indeed associated with a higher viral load. They are therefore able to concentrate more viral particles in the body of infected people, which leads to an increased risk of transmission.

And precisely, during an interview organized by Reuters , several British researchers said they were very worried. In question, mutations including the peak protein, mutations that could drastically reduce the effects of vaccines developed by laboratories.

New variants with higher viral loads

According to Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cell microbiology at the University of Reading, the two variants are quite similar, but the one found in South Africa has more mutations. Changes qualified as “worrying”.

Indeed, according to its analyzes, this variant contains numerous modifications of a key part of the virus, namely the spike protein.

This famous protein, as you may know, plays a key role in the transmission of Covid-19. It is indeed this which allows the virus to infect human cells.

However, the vaccines developed by the laboratories act on this protein in order to limit the risk of infection. Successful if we are to believe the results of tests carried out in recent weeks.

Increased resistance to vaccines?

And the whole problem is there. By modifying its spike protein, the virus could eventually be able to escape vaccines and the immune protection they provide. Concerns shared by Lawrence Young, a virologist working for the University of Warwick.

For their part, the laboratories are of course aware of the risks and they are currently testing their vaccines against these new variants – they also think they can make the necessary changes within six weeks.

Public Health England, for its part, said there was, at present, no evidence to suggest that the new variants of SARS-CoV-2 can resist the vaccines developed.