A new type of coronavirus has been discovered in New York City, which appears to show similarities to the highly contagious mutation occurring in South Africa. According to a report by scientists from Columbia University, the new variant B1.526 first appeared in samples in November. In mid-February, the mutation accounted for twelve percent of all cases in New York.
Also California Institute of Technology I mentioned this week About a mutant. Neither study was reviewed by independent experts. However, since the two studies reached similar results, they can be assumed to be correct.
The different types of viruses that are most contagious of the wild type have been rampant in Europe since the beginning of the year. Especially the B.1.1.7 mutant, discovered in Great Britain, is spreading with frightening speed. In Germany, their share of the infection rate is already around 20 percent.
The new variants are especially dangerous because they are more contagious than the wild type. It may also be that the vaccines approved to date do not work well against mutations. Studies are currently underway.
A boom has spread in the US state of California for some time, Which is also more contagious than the original variant. American researchers now wanted to know if new variants were also increasing in the United States. It turns out that B.1.1.7 is responsible for about 2,000 cases in the United States It spreads quickly. So there was no accumulation of the mutations that first appeared in South Africa (B 1,351) and Brazil (B1).
Instead, when arranging the samples, the scientists found a new variant – one that has apparently spread largely unnoticed in New York since November. New York was particularly hard hit by the virus spreading at the start of the pandemic. Hospitals and crematoria were overburdened, and bodies were stored in portable cooling tents.
The current study found that B.1.526 had disturbing similarities with B.1.351 and P1: the mutation that occurred in New York also had a genetic change in a spike protein called E484K, just like the other two variants.
The E484K mutation weakens the human immune system by blocking the antibodies that have already formed from binding to pathogens. The fact that this mutation is now occurring in different parts of the world shows that it gives the virus an advantage in spreading.
Vaccine manufacturers are currently researching adaptive vaccines that are also effective against E484K mutations. The mRNA technology that the Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on can be modified in a few weeks. With vector vaccines like the one produced by AstraZeneca, this would take much longer, but it is possible.
The United States announced earlier this week that it would quickly approve the modified vaccines. Rather than extended randomized studies, smaller studies should suffice. The way the European Medicines Agency (EMMA) deals with it remains open.