The virus mutates and the world wonders: is one vaccine enough for several strains?

Laboratories around the world are in a race against time in search of the vaccine / AFP

As scientists around the world work around the clock to obtain the vaccine that will curb the coronavirus pandemic, scientists themselves wonder how far they can put an end to it while the virus mutates and its variant strains raise questions and fears all over the world. Is it possible to think that a single vaccine can work against all coronaviruses?

“Everything is in real time and nobody can know the answer now”, is the general opinion among the specialists consulted by this medium. But, everyone recognizes it, the concern that strains multiply and there is thus that vaccines are updated “minute by minute” is a reality that seems to have been installed for days in laboratories around the world.

The team of scientists from the University of Oxford, in fact, working in conjunction with the Belgian giant AstraZeneca, is developing a new version of its vaccine that may be effective against new variants of the virus that have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

Early epidemiological observations from the UK noted that people who have already been through the coronavirus are not at high risk of contracting the British variant, B117. This indicates that the acquired immunity against this old “lineage” also protects against the new one.

Of course, not everything is rosy: in South Africa, 48% of people who have had the disease do not have the ability to neutralize the new 501Y.V2 variant.

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If this is confirmed, the South African variant thus acquired the ability to circumvent the immune system, which would help explain the rapid increase in cases registered in the country in recent weeks, and review all the vaccines that have been produced so far .

This situation has also been observed in Manaus, Brazil. According to a study published in the journal Science, 76% of the population had antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Despite the fact that three-quarters of the population have had the coronavirus infection, the city once again had an explosion of cases. Another point that leads scientists to analyze the response that vaccines “trigger”.

Thus, the variants of the virus that emerged in South Africa and Brazil seem to be able to escape the antibodies of people who have already had the disease, which could seriously compromise the effectiveness of the vaccines.

In this scenario, and as detailed by the British press, scientists from Oxford and AstraZeneca were accelerating investigations to determine how quickly they could reconfigure their platform for creating ChAdOx vaccines.

Even the government of Boris Johnson, pressured by records of deaths and a high loss in the number of daily infections, has had “intense conversations” with scientists about the new variants. The Prime Minister told MPs that he was confident that the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would be able to approve new vaccine modifications as quickly as necessary.

“The team does not currently believe it is necessary, but it would be stupid not to be prepared,” said the source. “It should take a day or two to adjust the system,” reproduces The Telegraph newspaper.

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Given this, a spokesman for the University of Oxford said that new variants should be expected, since “it is known that viruses constantly change through mutations. These changes are being closely monitored by scientists and it is important that we continue to be vigilant for changes in the future. “

The University of Oxford, as reported in recent days, is carefully evaluating the impact of the new variants on the immunity of the vaccine and evaluating the processes necessary for the rapid development of adjusted COVID-19 vaccines if necessary.

For Anthony S. Fauci, meanwhile, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “it is necessary to vaccinate as many people as possible with the current vaccines available and prepare for the potential eventuality that they will have to be update in the future ”.

Local experts, it must be said, insist that there are three variants that concern and arouse the attention and concern of the scientific community: that of the United Kingdom, that of South Africa and that of Brazil. What if more appear? Clearly, the emergence of the variants raised the specter that the current generation of vaccines could become obsolete before they have even begun to be applied around the globe. At the moment, there seem to be more questions on the laboratory table than concrete answers.

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