New SARS-CoV-2 Variant Shows Antibody-Resistance

The RNA nature and rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 have allowed it to give rise to mutant strains. However, only a few current variants are of real concern above the base virus. Researchers from Colombia have identified a new highly divergent SARS-CoV-2 lineage with spike substitutions L249S and E484K. These same mutations have convergently appeared in other mutant strains of the virus, most notably in variants of concern.

These two substitutions are thought to be associated with immune escape. The presence of E484K is especially believed to be responsible for resisting antibodies from convalescent blood plasma. These two mutations are associated with the B.1.1.28 and B.1.351 lineages (the Brazilian and South African variants, respectively), two variants of concern. The mutant with B.1.111 lineage is currently circulating in Colombia, the USA, Aruba, and Belgium. Despite this consensus, there are still many distinct mutations present in the newly identified strain that are divergent from B.1.111. The researchers posit that a larger sample size may well continue to support B.1.111 parentage. However, an alternative explanation is that these mutations may have convergently arisen from intense, presently unknown, ecological pressures.

The L249S and E484K substitutions have appeared convergently in nearly 70 identified strains, and this is not wholly unsurprising considering these are both thought to be associated with provided antibody resistance. The rapid emergence of convergent antibody-resistant viral strains will challenge the current global vaccination program, as mutations such as L249S and E484K may be able to arise in any local population within any country sporadically.

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