New corona mutation E484K likely to reduce vaccine efficacy

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A new corona mutation is harder for the immune system to catch, but it weakens disease progression. However, new vaccine variants may be needed.

The E484K mutation, which has now also emerged in the United Kingdom, strengthens the coronavirus against defense mechanisms in the body, according to virologist Alexander Kekule. “The virus escapes the immune system more easily,” the Halle-Wittenberg University professor said Wednesday. Like other mutations, the mutation affects the so-called spike protein, which gives the coronavirus its crown-like shape.

E484K: Antibodies less effective
Antibodies, however, are significantly less effective against the E484K variant, Kekule said, referring to data from Brazil and so far less robust reports from South Africa. “The virus is more poorly neutralized.” Those who have built up antibodies after a corona infection can contract viruses with the E484K mutation more easily than conventional coronavirus a second time, he said. But the good news, he said, is that disease courses are then usually milder. “We don’t have the full range to catch the virus then,” the physician explained. “But we can slow it down.”

The risk of disease does exist with E484K even after vaccination, Kekule said. But the mRNA vaccines offer much better protection than a natural immune response, he said. How much protection the vaccines would drop in E484K is not yet known, the virologist said. “Maybe the efficacy just goes down from 95 to 90 percent.” But he said he is certain that new vaccine variants will be needed by fall at the latest.

Vaccinate to overtake the virus
The fact that the virus has independently formed the E484K mutation at different sites suggests that it has an advantage for the virus, Kekule explained. In his view, therefore, it would be helpful to quickly vaccinate at-risk groups once now. “So we can get ahead of the virus.” But the official recommendations of the Permanent Vaccination Commission call for two vaccinations per person.

— sources: vienna.at and APA/picture: pixabay.com

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