The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.1 variant and its reduced sensitivity to neutralization by convalescent sera or vaccine-induced neutralizing antibody responses has been a topic of concern. The B.1.617.1 harbors several mutations within the spike protein including within the N-terminal antigenic supersite (G142D and E154K), the receptor-binding domain (L452R and E484Q), and within the polybasic furin cleavage site at the S1/S2 boundary (P681R). These mutations in the spike protein of B.1.617.1 variant are known to have increased resistance towards antibody neutralization.
To understand the ability of the mRNA vaccines, Moderna (mRNA-1273) and Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2), to neutralize the B.1.617.1 variant thorough analysis has been carried out. Neutralizing antibody response between B.1.617.1 variant and older strain WA1/2020 was compared. The results showed that there is a 6.8 fold decrease in the susceptibility of B.1.617.1 variant to neutralization by sera from convalescent and vaccinated individuals. But on the brighter side, the sera from convalescent and vaccinated individuals, though reduced, still could combat the B.1.617.1 variant.
This suggests that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines retain the ability to protect against the B.1.617.1 variant. But as it is known that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mutating rapidly and profusely it is important to critically evaluate the mutations and the impacts on antibody resistance, viral transmission, and vaccine efficacy.
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