Researchers from Göttingen consider the emergence of new virus variants that are immune to the current corona vaccines conceivable – also in Germany.
Update from April 19th: Epidemiology professor Timo Ulrichs warns of the spread of coronavirus mutants in Germany. “It’s kind of a race indeed,” he told the portal rtl.de. “We now have to vaccinate everything quickly and rigorously,” the epidemiologist continued. However, this must not only take place in Germany, but also in poorer countries. Otherwise you run the risk of virus variants, such as the Brazilian or the South African mutation, developing further.
Vaccine-immune corona mutants, so-called escape variants, are particularly worrying and are not unlikely in Germany (see first report). Epidemiologist Ulrichs explained that it was possible to react quickly to such a worst-case scenario. “You can quickly revise the vaccine by adjusting the mRNA information and then re-vaccinating,” he said. Biontech founder Sahin also raised hopes in this regard.
Corona mutation: Lauterbach warns urgently of B1.617 – “Europe is also facing a problem”
Nevertheless, concerns about such a super mutant are growing. On Monday, SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach also warned of the new mutant B1.617. The variant, which first appeared in India at the beginning of the year, has a double mutation and is considered to be far more contagious than the wild-type virus.
The politician wrote on Twitter: “A Covid catastrophe is looming in India. The new mutation B1.617 is gaining ground massively, also against B.1.1.7. Since B1.617 can also prevail with vaccination, Europe is also facing a problem. ”In England, too, the corona cases with the B1.617 mutant would“ rapidly ”increase. According to Lauterbach, however, it is unclear whether the spread is caused by travelers.
Vaccine-immune corona mutants: emergence in Germany “extreme scenario, but cannot be ruled out”
First report from April 13th: Göttingen – Germany is currently in the third wave of the corona pandemic. The nationwide 7-day incidence continues to rise, intensive care physicians are warning of a new high in Covid intensive care patients as early as April. The spread of corona mutants, such as the virus variant B.1.1.7, is primarily responsible for this. In a new study, researchers do not rule out that variants can also arise in Germany against which current corona vaccines are less effective or no longer effective at all.
Corona mutation: Vaccine-immune virus variants may develop in Germany
Such escape variants can arise when the coronavirus spreads in a population with incomplete immune protection, explained the researchers Stefan Pöhlmann and Markus Hoffmann from the Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen. This is also the case, for example, if the immunity slowly declines after an infection or vaccination.
“If there is hardly any immunity in a population, as is currently the case in Germany, an escape variant would be in direct competition with the predominant virus variants, which for their part still find enough susceptible hosts,” the scientists explained. An escape variant would only prevail over a large area if it was also easier to transfer.
Corona mutation: Virus variants B.1.351 and P.1 as examples of escape variants
Pöhlmann and Hoffmann cite virus variant P.1 in Brazil as an example of such a scenario. The experts from the German Primate Center, together with colleagues from the Ulm University Hospital, discovered that an antibody used for Covid-19 therapy was completely ineffective in the corona variants P.1 and B.1.351 from South Africa. You therefore classify these two virus variants as escape variants.
However, it can be assumed that B.1.351 and P.1 would still be inhibited by the available corona vaccines. “However, the vaccination protection may be reduced and of shorter duration,” said the scientists. It is therefore all the more important to quickly achieve large-scale immunity in the population through vaccination and thus rob the virus variants of the hosts that they need to spread.
Creation of escape variant in Germany: “Extreme scenario, but cannot be ruled out”
The researchers do not rule out the possibility that new virus variants could emerge against which current corona vaccines are less effective or no longer effective. In particular with a strong spread of the coronavirus, as it is currently taking place in Germany, this is “an extreme scenario, but cannot be ruled out,” explained Pöhlmann and Hoffmann. In order to reduce the likelihood of such escape variants occurring, the spread of the coronavirus must be effectively contained – for example by complying with the AHA rules and nationwide corona vaccinations.
Pöhlmann and Hoffmann also suggested adapting the existing corona vaccines to improve protection against virus variants such as B.1.351 and P.1. “This approach would be similar to the vaccination strategy we use to protect ourselves against influenza viruses,” the scientists explained.
The British corona mutation B.1.1.7 is spreading rapidly in Germany. It is far more contagious than the original version – but not more deadly, as a recent study shows. (ph / dpa)
List of rubric lists: © Matthias Bein / dpa
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