South Africa’s new variant: What is it?
The new South African variant, which has been named “501Y.V2”, is a strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The new variant came to the surface in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
The new strain of virus includes a genetic mutation in the “spike” protein that could be the cause of immediate and easy spread of the virus amongst people. The spike protein is what leads the coronavirus to gain entry into human cells. According to scientists, the variant can enter the human cells more easily because of three mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) in the spike glycoprotein of the virus.
According to study
As per a recent study published in the preprint platform bioRxiv, which is yet to be peer reviewed, 501Y.V2 has mutations in nine parts of its spike protein, which makes it more efficient at entering and infecting the human cells.
Having taken the neutralizing antibodies from COVID-recovered patients, researchers tested it against the new variant. They concluded that 21 of 44 of the samples had no detectable neutralising activity against this variant. As per the scientists, the mutant virus shows “substantial or complete escape from neutralizing antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma.”
The scientists further highlighted the increase in the possibility of reinfection. That said, the study has claimed that the new variant “may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”