MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A preliminary study has found that the South African variant of the coronavirus entails high reinfection risks due to the resistance of its genetic code to the immune response built up from prior infection and, potentially, vaccines, the Medical Xpress news portal reported.
As mentioned in the report, the original coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 has mutated over time, and several new variants were detected in recent weeks in such countries as Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The study from the report looked into the South African variant, in particular, and found that it was resistant to antibodies built in the plasma of recovered patients.
"Here we show that the 501Y.V2 lineage, which contains nine spike mutations and rapidly emerged in South Africa during the second half of 2020, is largely resistant to neutralising antibodies elicited by infection with previously circulating lineages. This suggests that, despite the many people who have already been infected with SARS-CoV-2 globally and are presumed to have accumulated some level of immunity, new variants such as 501Y.V2 pose a significant re-infection risk," the authors were quoted as saying.
According to researchers, their findings can have added value for vaccine developers who build their product on the immune response to the virus's spike protein, as well as for the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19.
The medical news portal noted that the study had not yet been peer reviewed and required more research on the effectiveness of other parts of the immune response other than plasma.
The report cited two other preliminary research papers published on Wednesday as saying that the antibodies from previously-infected patients were largely effective against the UK variant and that the vaccine developed by US-German duo Pfizer/BioNTech was effective against that variant.
Earlier this month, a Pfizer-funded study claimed that their vaccine was effective against the UK and South African variants.