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Covid-19 Double Mutant Can Escape Antibodies, But Vaccine Can Protect Majority: Study

Structure image of B.1.1.7 (UK variant) (Image: University of British Columbia)

Structure image of B.1.1.7 (UK variant) (Image: University of British Columbia)

The research paper suggests that B.1.617 has modest ability to dodge antibodies responsible for its high infectivity and transmissibility that fuelled the second wave in India.

The new variant of Covid-19 which is also known as the double mutant has a “modest” ability to escape the antibodies developed by vaccines, but it can at best cause moderate illness among those who have got the vaccine, scientists from India and UK have found. The scientists added that vaccination is still protective for the majority of the people.

A report in The Times of India said the mutant was detected in Maharashtra three months ago and has been now detected across India and other countries. The WHO said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in more than 4,500 samples uploaded to an open-access database “from 44 countries in all six WHO regions".

Scientists from India’s INSACOG, consortium of 10 labs and UK’s Cambridge University wrote in a research paper, ‘SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617 — emergence and sensitivity to vaccine-elicited antibodies’, that there is a possibility some people could get infected with the variant inspite of the vaccination, but the infection would be mild.

The report suggests that B.1.617 has modest ability to dodge antibodies responsible for its high infectivity and transmissibility that fuelled the second wave in India.

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“The data go some way in explaining the dominance of this variant in a partially immune population, but highlights that vaccination is still protective for the majority of people,” Ravi Gupta, from the University of Cambridge’s department of medicine and author of the new study said.

Dr Anurag Agrawal, director of the Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology said that the vaccine protects against the Indian variant. However, he adds that there is an immune escape, but now of a high degree.

Earlier, US top pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Covaxin has been found to neutralise the 617 variant of the deadly virus.

“Our CSIR labs have shown Covishield’s effectiveness, while NIV Pune has shown that Covaxin is effective,” Dr Anurag Agrawal said. The latest paper studied the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against B.1.617.

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first published:May 12, 2021, 10:52 IST