Days after US pharmaceutical giant Moderna claimed that its Covid-19 vaccine protects against the two new mutant strains of the coronavirus, Bharat Biotech has claimed Covaxin, too, has been found effective against the UK variant of the virus, which is said to be 70 per cent more infectious than the Wuhan strain and is more lethal.
"Covaxin effectively neutralises UK variants of SARS-CoV-2 reducing the possibility of mutant virus escape," tweeted Bharat Biotech on Tuesday, along with a link to its research paper.
Neutralization of UK-variant VUI-202012/01 with COVAXIN vaccinated human serum https://t.co/v8Me4TzGgh #BharatBiotech #COVAXIN #bioRxiv #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/7R3FlsWAX3 — BharatBiotech (@BharatBiotech) January 27, 2021
A preprint review by bioRxiv, a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences, supported the findings. The archive is operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and educational institution in New York.
Bharat Biotech performed the plaque reduction neutralisation test (PRNT50) using sera collected from the 26 recipients of Covaxin and tested them against the UK variant and heterologous strain, the report said. "A comparable neutralisation activity of sera of the vaccinated individuals showed against UK-variant and the heterologous strain with similar efficiency, dispel the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape," the preprint review published in bioRxivs website said.
Covaxin is India's totally indigenous COVID-19 vaccine developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. It is developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech's BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) bio-containment facility, one of its kind in the world.
The vaccine is currently under Phase-3 trials and is being used as part of the nationwide immunisation programme for healthcare workers after the Central Licensing Authority granted permission for the sale or distribution of Covaxin for restricted use in emergency situations.
Reacting to the bioRxiv review, ICMR tweeted: "COVAXIN developed by @BharatBiotech with @ICMRDELHI has equivalent immunogenicity against the UK-variant & circulating strains of SARS-COV-2 in India. @icmr_niv is the first in the world to culture the UK variant."
COVAXIN developed by @BharatBiotech with @ICMRDELHI has equivalent immunogenicity against the UK-variant & circulating strains of SARS-COV-2 in India.@icmr_niv is the first in the world to culture the UK variant. Read more: https://t.co/HfhH8z6T8x / J Travel Med (In Press) pic.twitter.com/cGp537bi0H — ICMR (@ICMRDELHI) January 27, 2021
The presence of the new UK variant has already been reported by several countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore. The Government of India had put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant. Over 150 cases of the new strain have surfaced in India, so far.
India had suspended all flights coming from the UK from December 23 till January 7 and mandatory testing of all UK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test was carried out.
British authorities have said there is evidence that the variant circulating there may be more deadly than the original.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, had called the new variants even "more ominous".