Vaccines currently being developed for COVID-19 should not be affected by recent mutations in the novel coronavirus, according to researchers, including one of Indian origin, who said the finding is good news for the hundreds of vaccine candidates around the world.
The researchers, including those from the University of York in the UK, noted that most vaccines under development worldwide have been modelled on the original 'D-strain' of the virus, which were more common amongst sequences published early in the pandemic.
Since then, the virus has evolved to the globally dominant 'G-strain', which now accounts for about 85 per cent of published SARS-CoV-2 genomes, they said.
There had been fears the G-strain, within the main protein on the surface of the virus, would negatively impact on vaccines under development.
However, the research by Australia's national science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), found no evidence the change would adversely impact the efficacy of vaccine candidates.
The study, published in the journal npj Vaccines, tested blood samples from ferrets given a candidate vaccine against virus strains that either possessed or lacked this mutation known as 'D614G'.
"This is good news for the hundreds of vaccines in development around the world, with the majority targeting the spike protein as this binds to the ACE2 receptors in our lungs and airways, which are the entry point to infect cells," said Professor Seshadri Vasan, who holds an honorary chair in Health Sciences at the University of York.
"Despite this D614G mutation to the spike protein, we confirmed through experiments and modelling that vaccine candidates are still effective, Vasan said in a statement.
"We've also found the G-strain is unlikely to require frequent 'vaccine matching' where new vaccines need to be developed seasonally to combat the virus strains in circulation, as is the case with influenza," he said.
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said the research was critically important in the race to develop a vaccine.
"This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives, Marshall said. he said.
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