A new study provides early evidence that a Covid-19 vaccine might be effective against two new coronavirus strains first identified in South Africa and the UK, despite a concerning mutation. The two strains share a mutation known as N501Y that scientists worry could allow the virus to evade the immune protection generated by a vaccine.
In research posted online Thursday, scientists found that antibodies from people who had received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine showed "no reduction in neutralization activity" against a version of the virus that carries the N501Y mutation, which they created in the lab.
In order to do this, researchers tested the virus against blood from 20 people who had received two doses of the vaccine as part of a clinical trial. The N501Y mutation is located in the coronavirus' spike protein -- the same structure targeted by vaccines. The virus uses this protein to enter the cells it attacks.
This particular mutation appears to help the virus attach to human cells, which may partly explain why these new strains appear to be more transmissible. But it is just one of many mutations in both strains that scientists have worried could make the virus less susceptible to vaccines or treatments.
The study conducted by researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch -- does not test the full array of these mutations, nor has it been peer-reviewed.