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The Pfizer vaccine is slightly less effective against key South African mutations

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine appear to lose little of their effectiveness against the engineered virus with three key mutations in a new variant of the coronavirus found in South Africa, according to a laboratory study .

A study by Pfizer and researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) that has not yet been reviewed shows less than a twofold reduction in antibody titer levels, indicating that the vaccine is likely to be effective in neutralizing the virus. with the so-called E484K and N501Y mutations found in the South African variant.

The study https://www.biorxiv.org/content/1

0.1101/2021.01.27.427998v1 was performed on blood taken from people who received the vaccine. His findings are limited because he does not address the full range of mutations found in the new South African variant.

Although these findings do not indicate the need for a new vaccine to deal with emerging variants, Pfizer and BioNTech are ready to respond if a SARS-CoV-2 variant shows evidence of avoiding immunity to the COVID-19 vaccine, the companies said.

Scientists are currently developing a virus with the full set of mutations and expect to have results in about two weeks, according to Pei-Yong Shi, author of the study and a professor at UTMB.

The results are more encouraging than another unreviewed study by Columbia University researchers earlier Wednesday, which used a slightly different method and showed that the antibodies generated by the shots were significantly less effective against the South African option.

One possible reason for the difference may be that Pfizer’s findings are based on a constructed coronavirus, and the Colombian study uses a pseudovirus based on vesicular stomatitis virus, a different type of virus, said Shi of UTMB. He said he believed that the detection of pseudoviruses should be validated using the real virus.

The study also showed even better results against several key mutations from the highly transmitted British variant of the virus. Shi said they are also working on an engineered virus with the full set of mutations and this variant.

(Report by Michael Erman; Additional report by Christine Soares and Rama Venkat; Editing by Sonia Heppinstal and Leslie Adler)

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