Executive Summary

  • The UK, South African and Brazilian variants are of concern because of increased prevalence and they carry mutation(s) such that vaccine and antibody therapies have shown less neutralizing activity in the lab
    • Early Novavax clinical trial findings showed lower vaccine efficacy against the South African variant compared to the UK variant
  • The New York variant is of concern because of increased prevalence and it carries a mutation (like the South African variant) where vaccine and antibody therapies have shown less neutralizing activity in the lab

My first blog post was about whether the vaccines would address variants and I noted that scientists needed to do more research. Some of that research is now suggesting how current vaccines could be less effective against variants if they carry specific mutations.

I started out trying to understand how variants are defined and there are three nomenclatures. I will use the PANGO lineage here since it is the most detailed and can help track emerging variants (the other two are GISAID and Nextstrain).

In the media, you may have heard about the UK (B.1.1.7), South African (B.1.351) or Brazilian (P.1) variants of concern, but these are not technical terms (I’ve put the PANGO lineage in parentheses). These are variants of concern because of increased prevalence and they carry mutations where vaccine and antibody therapies have shown less neutralizing activity in the lab. Furthermore, the South African variant (versus the UK variant) showed lower efficacy in preliminary findings of the Novavax vaccine study. In America, the New York variant (B.1.526) is currently a variant of concern because it showed increased prevalence and was reported as the carrying the mutation (E484K) where vaccine and antibody therapies showed less neutralizing activity in the lab.

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