Mutation that made coronavirus more infectious may make it vulnerable to vaccines: study

Mutation that made coronavirus more infectious may make it vulnerable to vaccines: study
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A mutation that caused the novel coronavirus to be more infectious might also have left it more vulnerable to vaccines, according to a new study.

The mutation, called D614G, occurred in the virus’ “spike protein” — which is what the virus uses to bind itself to the cell it’s attacking. Worldwide transmission patterns suggest that this mutation enabled the virus to infect people more easily, the paper’s authors write. The mutation is also associated with a higher virus load in people’s respiratory secretions.

The mutation increased the number of “spikes” on the coronavirus — which is the part that gives it its distinctive shape. Those spikes are what allows the virus to bind to and infect cells.

Most potential vaccines, the authors write, are modelled upon an earlier version of the virus, which is why they wanted to investigate whether they might work in the D614G variant too, since that mutation has since become the dominant version worldwide.

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Using samples from mice, primates and humans, they found that if anything, the antibody response is bigger in the new virus than the old one.

“The gain in infectivity provided by D614G came at the cost of making the virus more vulnerable to neutralizing antibodies,” wrote the authors.

This was a lab-based study only, which used animal models, so its findings aren’t necessarily representative of real-world conditions. Still, the authors write, their findings “alleviate a major concern” in the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
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