COVID-19 vaccines won’t be affected by virus’ ‘G-strain’ mutation

YORK, United Kingdom — As many people find out each year, flu shots don’t always keep you from getting the flu. One reason for this is flu shots protect against certain strains of the virus. That might not be the one you catch however. As scientists speed towards a vaccine for coronavirus, there’s a fear drugs will not work against mutations of COVID-19. Luckily, a new study finds this wont be the case. Researchers say potential vaccines will work against COVID-19’s newer and dominant “G-strain” mutation spreading across the world.

An international team of researchers concludes vaccines, which are currently being tested against COVID-19’s “D-strain,” will still be effective against this other version of the illness. The study explains that most vaccines being developed are based on the original COVID strain. The “D-strain” was also more common during the early months of the pandemic.

Since then, the “G-strain” has actually overtaken it to become the more common type of coronavirus infecting patients. This mutation, known as D614G, now accounts for about 85 percent of the virus particles being found. In July, scientists noted that the mutant D614G strain appeared to be more infectious than the original. More of the mutant strain was also being found in a patient’s nose and throat.

New COVID strain? No problem

Fearing early vaccine trials may have been wasted, a team from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) started looking for evidence that drugs could lose their impact on different coronavirus strains.

The study tested blood samples from ferrets who received a possible coronavirus vaccine. Professor Seshadri Vasan from the University of York reveals there was no evidence a mutation in COVID-19 affects the impact of their drug.

“This is good news for the hundreds of vaccines in development around the world, with the majority targeting the spike protein as this binds to the ACE2 receptors in our lungs and airways, which are the entry point to infect cells,” the study’s senior author says in a university release.

“Despite this D614G mutation to the spike protein, we confirmed through experiments and modelling that vaccine candidates are still effective.”

Coronavirus vaccine won’t be like standard flu shot

Vasan adds a potential COVID vaccine will not have the same drawbacks as flu vaccinations, which require patients to get a new one each year. This is a positive development after a recent study suggested the coronavirus will keep returning for years to come.

“We’ve also found the G-strain is unlikely to require frequent ‘vaccine matching’ where new vaccines need to be developed seasonally to combat the virus strains in circulation, as is the case with influenza,” the honorary chair in Health Sciences at the University of York explains.

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” CSIRO Chief Executive Dr. Larry Marshall says.

The study appears in the journal npj Vaccines.

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