10:33 GMT15 April 2021
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    A string of studies has shown that although the existing vaccines still do work against the new coronavirus strains, they may prove less effective in battling infections.

    COVID-19 pathogens could mutate into a new superpowerful strain that would be not susceptible to vaccines and would thus infect the global population again in an even more pervasive, “very, very scary” outbreak, scientists have warned, as reported by the Sun.

    Dr Tony Lockett, from King’s College London’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, outlined the prospect of a devastating new mutation, strongly advising Brits to strictly follow the rules.

    He said the effect could be much worse than the first one, as younger people could become sicker and those who have battled the virus would get reinfected with the new strain.

    He went on to explain that some mutations come along when the virus infects people who are unable to defeat it with their own immune system.

    "Uncontrolled proliferation leads to the virus replicating more actively and hence mutation is more likely”,  he added, suggesting that the most effective way to deal with the threat is to “vaccinate as many as we can” and thereby reduce the transmission rate, while staying in lockdown until the majority gets immunised.

    Harvard Professor Dr William Hannage for his part explained it is crucial to stop the new variants from spiraling before they can get a foothold, adding the spread of infections fuels new mutations.

    “At the moment there is a lot of concern around E484K, a mutation in the spike protein which is thought to help the virus sidestep immunity from prior infection and is found in several of the variants,” he commented.

    “While it looks like vaccines should still offer protection, at least from severe disease, this is one to watch,” he underscored, as a number of studies have demonstrated that although current vaccines continue to work against new strains, they can be way less effective in this case.

    For instance, according to Ravi Gupta, a professor of Clinical Microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseas, mutations “are already on the way to becoming immune to the existing jabs.

    "For example, the AstraZeneca study did not do well against the South African strain”, he said, citing evidence that the same mutations “are cropping up again and again”. He explained that the Brazil and South African variants have a specific E484K mutation that really makes it hard for our antibodies to neutralise and prevent the flare-up of the infection.

    The academics’ comments come amid research findings that new coronavirus mutations could make vaccines redundant in less than one year, according to an epidemiologist survey by The People’s Vaccine Alliance.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has implored UK nationals to stick to the rules in the run-up to the long Easter weekend so that the country can fulfill its plans to unlock completely by June, following its three lockdowns in the past year.


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