With rolling out of vaccines for SARS-Co-V-2, the emergence of the three variants of SARS-CoV-2 namely, B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 are of major concern Out of these 3 variants, variant B.1.1.7 is the first variant that emerged in the UK, which is more virulent and transmissible of all the three. On Feb 1st, 2021 it was confirmed that the B.1.1.7 variant was identified with this E484K mutation after analyzing the genome sequences. E484K is also called an escape mutation because it helps the virus slip past the body’s immune defenses. It increases the chances of reinfecting people. A study published on the preprint server revealed that B.1.352 demonstrated that this variant was more resistant to neutralization by convalescent plasma and vaccine sera. These effects were mediated by the E484K mutation.
The researchers performed rapid PCR-based assays to detect coronavirus variants with the N501Y and E484K mutation from 1,142 randomly selected samples of confirmed positive SARS-CoV-2. Of the 1,142 samples, 83 (9%) contained the E484K mutation. The earliest SARS-CoV-2 case with the E484K mutation was collected in mid-November 2020. Since then, the researchers found an increase in E484K-positive cases. A total of 17 (1.8%) samples contained the N501Y mutation. Like E484K, the researchers found the number of cases with N501Y also rose over time. Six samples that had the N501Y mutation were from the B.1.17 variant. Two samples were of the P2 variant, which contains the E484K mutation.
One sample was from the B.1351 variant, which had both mutations. The B.1.526 variant was tested using 4 monoclonal antibodies with emergency use authorization, 10 convalescent plasma, and 10 vaccine sera. Results showed the B.1.526 variant also shows the ability to neutralize antibodies, making current SARS-CoV-2 treatments less effective. There was a 7.7-fold decrease in the neutralizing activity of convalescent plasma and 3.4-fold for the vaccine sera when the E484K variant was present.
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