Scientists are concerned after the discovery of another new variant of the coronavirus in the UK that could have the potential to ‘dull the immunity’ achieved by the vaccine.
The new strain is called B.1.525 and has a genetic variation called E484K that is also found to be present in the Brazilian and South African variants.
This is of particular concern because the E484K mutation has been shown to be more effective in potentially avoiding natural immunity and the vaccine-induced immune system.
But Public Health England (PHE), which is investigating the new variant, says there is no evidence yet to suggest it is more dangerous or easier to transmit.
According to the health board, there are so far 38 cases of B.1.525 in the UK from the sample that lasted until December.
B.1.525 has now been identified in other countries as well, including Australia, Denmark, Nigeria and the USA.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, PHE’s medical director, explained: “PHE is very careful to monitor data on new variants and where necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, such as additional testing and increased contact search.
“There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more serious diseases or increased transmission.
“The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow public health advice – wash your hands, wear a face blanket and stay away from others.
“While they’re locked in, it’s important that people stay home where possible.”
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cell microbiology at the University of Reading, said the new stain could potentially affect the vaccine.
He said: “We do not yet know how well this (new) variant will spread, but if it is successful, it can be assumed that the immunity will at any time be assumed to be blunt immunity from any vaccine or previous infection.”
“I think that until we learn more about these variants, all variants that carry E484K should be subjected to an overvoltage test, because it seems to provide resistance to immunity, however it is created.”
There are now a number of others related to new strains of coronavirus, including the South African variant, the Kent variant and Bristol.