Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, sits before a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, USA, on Wednesday, September 23, 2020.
Graeme Jennings | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A mutated and more infectious coronavirus strain, first identified in South Africa, is “disturbing”
New coronavirus strains, first identified in the UK and South Africa, have given rise to concern among researchers, who say the mutated variants are highly contagious, although they do not appear to be more deadly compared to previous strains.
So far, health experts have said there is no evidence that the mutations alter the effectiveness of current vaccines. However, there is some concern that the variant found in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, may be more resistant to monoclonal antibodies, which has helped some people fight the virus when administered early in their infection.
Through discussions with health experts in South Africa, Fauci said preliminary data show there is “more threat” that the strain will evade some of the protections provided by antibody treatments.
“It may have some effect on the protection of the monoclonal antibodies and maybe even for the vaccine. We do not know,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Q&A session at Schmidt Futures. ‘. Contingency forum.
He added that researchers in laboratories at the National Institutes of Health and across the country are rapidly trying to determine the possible impact of the South African strain.
“People ask me, ‘Are you worried about that?’ It’s not the kind of thing I worry about, but it’s the kind of thing I take very seriously, ”Fauci said.
As viruses spread, they are expected to mutate over time as spikes on their surfaces change, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 501Y.V2 variant gets its name from the N501Y mutation found in the spike protein that the virus uses to enter cells in the body.
This mutation is also seen in the variant identified by the UK health authorities in December, known as B.1.1.7. While both variants found in the UK and South Africa shared the N501Y mutation, they are different according to the World Health Organization.
Fauci has previously said that the mutated Covid-19 variations may pose a risk to coronavirus therapy. Unlike vaccines that trigger an immune response that attacks different parts of the virus, monoclonal antibodies are targeted to a very specific component, Fauci California government Gavin Newsom told in late December.
Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO Dave Ricks told CNBC earlier Tuesday that he expects the company’s monoclonal antibody treatment will be effective against the variant found in the UK, although in South Africa it could pose more challenges. Eli Lilly’s drug received emergency approval in the United States in November and was followed by another drug from Regeneron.
“The South African variant. “Theoretically, it could avoid our medicine.”
The CDC has not yet identified any strains of the 501Y.V2 variant in the United States, although the agency has found at least 72 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain found in the UK as of Monday, according to data from the CDC.
– CNBCs Holly Ellyatt and Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.