- The new coronavirus has changed in recent months. A Sars-CoV-2 mutation is currently rampant, which makes the virus even more contagious.
- However, this does not jeopardize the development of a future vaccine, a new study shows.
- According to the scientists, the immune defense should be ensured with a vaccine, even if the virus has a slightly different shape.
Viruses have the fascinating property of changing over time and sometimes drastically modifying the protruding protein structures of their shell. These mutations are about why we can get the flu again and again. They could also be the reason why people may have been infected with the coronavirus twice.
If a virus changes sufficiently in the context of a mutation, our antibodies, which are already present due to a disease or vaccination, can suddenly be ineffective.
This fact has also worried researchers regarding a possible coronavirus vaccination. The virus is constantly evolving and is now in a different form, as can be seen on the Gisaid research platform, where researchers upload new genomic sequences of the virus every day.
A study published last week in the journal Nature, however, is clear and suggests that vaccines currently under development are also effective against the new virus mutation.
Old virus, new form
Sars-CoV-2 is no longer the virus we met in the spring. Due to several mutations in the virus’s RNA code, it changed slowly but steadily over the course of the pandemic. About 80 percent of coronaviruses in circulation now have a mutation with the code number G614, which makes the virus even more contagious, according to an article in Cell magazine.
This is important for vaccine development to the extent that these substances want to induce our immune system to form antibodies against Sars-CoV-2. Antibodies are particularly effective for this because they attach well to the virus’s external protein structures and thus prevent it from entering human cells. A modified structure of the virus could then reverse this effect.
As a research team led by Australian virologist Alexander McAuley found, the current G614 mutation of the coronavirus is not expected to affect the effectiveness of future vaccines, even if these were still being developed in relation to an “outdated” version of the virus, such as the “German Ärzteblatt”.
Future vaccines will most likely work
According to the researchers, the reason for this is the fact that the change in the protein envelope of the virus is at a point that is not crucial to the immune system.
Scientists verified this by subjecting the molecular structure of SARS-CoV-2 to a detailed examination. In addition, the immune defense against the old and the new coronavirus strain was examined in animal experiments and it was found that the antibodies were able to successfully neutralize all variants of the virus.
So relief for vaccine researchers. Finally, the results indicate that future Sars-CoV-2 vaccines will most likely be effective despite the current mutation.