At the start of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 was relatively stable, but recently many viral variants have been detected which are spreading rapidly. Variants B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1, which first appeared in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, respectively, have mutations in the spike protein and some are located in areas targeted by currently used antiviral agents and vaccines. Researchers from Germany have found that the SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.351 and P.1 are no longer inhibited by an antibody used for COVID-19 therapy.
Also, these variants are less efficiently inhibited by antibodies from recovered patients and vaccinated individuals. The team found that certain antiviral agents that block host cell entry and are in clinical development inhibit the mutant viruses just as well as the original virus. In contrast, an antibody used for COVID-19 therapy did not inhibit variants B.1.351 and P.1. Moreover, these variants were less well inhibited by antibodies from convalescent or vaccinated individuals, they partially bypassed the neutralizing effect of the antibodies. The use of the currently available vaccines makes sense and a rapid expansion of the vaccination efforts is desirable. However, vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 may offer reduced protection from SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.351 and P.1. The rapid spread of these variants which might not be efficiently inhibited by antibodies could undermine the current vaccination strategy.
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