Covaxin effective against new COVID-19 UK-strain: ICMR study

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on 27 January, said Covaxin has equivalent immunogenicity against the UK-variant and circulating strains of COVID-19 in India.

By Sumit Jha  Published on  27 Jan 2021 11:28 AM GMT
Covaxin effective against new COVID-19 UK-strain: ICMR study

Hyderabad: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on 27 January, said Covaxin has equivalent immunogenicity against the UK-variant and circulating strains of COVID-19 in India.

Covaxin, an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, is developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the ICMR and the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

ICMR published a paper in which it said they performed the plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT50) using sera collected from the 26 recipients of BBV152/Covaxin against hCoV-19/India/20203522 (UK-variant) and hCoV27 19/India/2020Q111 (heterologous strain). The study showed a comparable neutralization activity of the vaccinated individuals against UK-variant strain and the heterologous strain.

The rapid surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Variant of Concern (VOC) 202012/01, also known as lineage B.1.1.7 or 20B/501Y.V1, in the United Kingdom (UK) had raised concerns in several countries. The new variant was associated with high transmissibility. Identification of other variants from South Africa also initiated a global discussion on the challenges that these new variants could pose to the current vaccine candidates.

The genome of the UK-variant has 17 mutations, eight of which were found in spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) mediating the attachment of the virus to the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor on the surface of human cells. "Therefore, it appeared that the majority of the vaccine candidates, being either recombinant or specifically targeting the single epitope of original D614G ancestral spike sequence, might not be able to generate an efficient immune response against the new variants," reads the paper.

ICMR said its study evidently highlighted comparable neutralization activity of vaccinated individuals' sera against variants as well as heterologous SARS-CoV-2 strains. "Importantly, sera from the vaccine recipients could neutralize the UK-variant strains discounting the uncertainty around potential escape," the paper stated.

It further said that Covaxin could be expected to work against the new UK-variant. "It is unlikely that the mutation 501Y would be able to dampen the potential benefits of the vaccine in concern," the paper read.


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