Study finds Covaxin effective against the UK variant

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been found to neutralise the UK variant with “similar efficiency” as the strain used for making the vaccine and hence “dispels the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape” following vaccination.

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been found to neutralise the UK variant with “similar efficiency” as the strain used for making the vaccine and hence “dispels the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape” following vaccination, says the results posted on bioRxiv preprint server. Preprints are yet to be peer-reviewed and published in medical journals. The work was carried out by researchers from ICMR and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad.

The sera from people vaccinated with Covaxin were tested against the same strain used for making the vaccine, another strain found in India but different from the one used for making the vaccine and the UK variant.

The median ratio of 50% neutralization of sera was found to be 80% for the UK variant and 90% for the strain circulating in India but different from the one used for making the vaccine, says Dr. Samiran Panda of ICMR and one of the authors of the preprint.

The study was conducted using the sera collected from 38 people who have been vaccinated with Covaxin during the phase-2 trial. Researchers from ICMR’s Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) and Bharat Biotech found that the vaccine has “comparable neutralisation activity” against the UK variant and the strain used for making the vaccine.

The UK variant was isolated and characterised from people returning from the U.K. The variant isolated from UK returnees had “all signature mutations of the UK variant”, they say.

Sera collected from 38 vaccine recipients during the phase-2 trial had “equivalent neutralising antibodies” to the strain used for making the vaccine, the strain circulating in India but different from the one used for making the vaccine and the UK variant.

Explaining how the neutralisation studies are carried out, Dr. Panda said that the virus isolated from people is grown in the lab using cell lines (in this case monkey kidney cell-lines). When viruses successfully grow in them, the pathogenic effects of the viruses are observed in the cells. The sera taken from vaccinated people are then added to the cell line culture system and its ability to prevent the virus from causing pathogenic effects are observed. In this case, the sera taken from the vaccinated people was able to neutralise the virus and hence prevent the pathogenic effects from being produced in the cell lines containing the virus.

The Covaxin developed indigenously can be expected to work against the new UK variant, say Dr. Panda. The preprint says “it is unlikely that the 501Y mutation found in the UK variant would be able to dampen the potential benefits of the vaccine in concern”.

The manuscript has been submitted to the Journal of Travel Medicine for publication, says Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director-General of ICMR

Published in The Hindu on January 27, 2021

5 Thoughts

  1. Dear Prasad, this declaration by Bharat Biotech is absolute folly and meaningless. How many variant samples have hey tested? Are these as many required in phase III? Because they are doing that to fully avoid Phase III trial and do the short-cut , something at which Indians, I mean the industry, scientists, and Governement and politicos are well versed. Shame!!

  2. The abstract of the preprint says 26 not 38 (sera collected from the 26
    recipients of BBV152/COVAXIN™ against hCoV-19/India/20203522 (UK-variant) and
    hCoV27 19/India/2020Q111 (heterologous strain).) But the figure shows 38 samples tested for UK variant and 20 for the heterologous strain. Unfortunately under data availability it says will be given upon reasonable request (The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request). This is definitely not encouraging. Given the circumstances one would have expected the data about the samples collected to be made available in the preprint or in a website. Is the 26 and 38/20 just a mistake? Also the 7 page preprint has no materials and methods section which is strange considering the import of the preprint. Perhaps you can raise this with the authors or bring the inconsistencies to the attention of the public. Unfortunate that ICMR has painted itself into a situation where the trust and credibility is low.

    1. Dr. Samiran Panda of ICMR and one of the authors of the preprint clarified that sera taken from 38 people vaccinated with Covaxin was used in the study.

      1. Then they should correct the abstract and make the data public in a website giving the link in the preprint. Why hide it behind a “reasonable request” clause.

      2. Then they should correct the abstract. Also make the data public by providing a link in the preprint, plus add materials and methods.

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