You are here: Home » Current Affairs » Coronavirus » News
Business Standard

Current Covid vaccines may be less effective against Beta variant: Study

The study used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to compare the spike protein from the original virus found in China in 2019, with that of the Beta variant

Topics
Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Coronavirus Vaccine

Press Trust of India  |  Boston 

Coronavirus mutation, coronavirus strain, coronavirus variant
Photo: Shutterstock

A study of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which cause COVID-19, suggests that current vaccines may be less effective against the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Present on the surface of SARS-COV-2, spike proteins enable the virus to attach to and enter our cells, and all current vaccines are directed against them.

The study, published in the journal Science on June 24, used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to compare the spike protein from the original virus found in China in 2019, with that of the Beta variant, and the Alpha variant first identified in the UK.

Cryo-Em is an imaging technique used to determine the biomolecular structures at near-atomic resolution.

The findings led by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital in the US indicate that mutations in the Beta variant, also known as B.1.351, change the shape of the spike surface at certain locations.

As a result, neutralising antibodies induced by current vaccines are less able to bind to the Beta virus, which may allow it to evade the immune system even when people are vaccinated.

"The mutations make antibodies stimulated by the current vaccine less effective," said Bing Chen, from the division of Molecular Medicine at Boston Children's.

The Beta variant is somewhat resistant to the current vaccines, and we think a booster with the new genetic sequence can be beneficial for protecting against this variant," Chen added.

The researchers also found that mutations in the Beta variant make the spike less effective in binding to ACE2 -- suggesting that this variant is less transmissible than the Alpha variant.

As for the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7), the study confirms that a genetic change in the spike helps the virus bind better to ACE2 receptors, making it more infectious.

However, testing indicates that antibodies elicited by existing vaccines can still neutralise this variant, according to the researchers.

They said to be a heightened threat, a SARS-CoV-2 variant would need to do three things: spread more easily, evade the immune system in vaccinated people or those previously exposed to COVID-19, and cause more severe disease.

However, the researchers said the Alpha and Beta variants do not meet all these criteria.

"Our data suggest that the most problematic combination of such mutations is not yet present in the existing variants examined here," they added.

The research team is now analysing the structures of other variants of concern, including the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), first identified in India.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Mon, June 28 2021. 14:09 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU