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 the California Institute of Technology I mentioned this week About a mutant. Neither study was reviewed by independent experts. However, since the results of the two studies are similar, it can be assumed that they are 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. In particular, the B.1.1.7 mutation, detected 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. Additionally, vaccines approved to date may 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 are also on the rise 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, the scientists found a new variant when sequencing the samples – one that has apparently spread largely unnoticed in New York since November. New York was particularly hard hit by the spread of the virus 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 preventing 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 modified vaccines that are also effective against E484K mutations. The mRNA technology that the Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna vaccines depend 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 wants to quickly approve the modified vaccines. Rather than extended randomized studies, smaller studies should suffice. How the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will handle this is still open.