Covaxin offers protection against double mutant (B.1.617) variant

A study has found that people who have been vaccinated with Covaxin have protection against the double mutant (B.1.617) variant first found in India. The ability of the sera of vaccinated people to neutralise the B.1.617 variant was found to be two-fold less.

A study has found that people who have been vaccinated with Covaxin have protection against the double mutant (B.1.617) variant first found in India.

A preprint of the study carried out by ICMR and Bharat Biotech researchers has been posted in biorXiv. Preprints are yet to be peer-reviewed and published in medical journals.

So far 21 countries have detected the B.1.617 variant, most of which have been reported from India.

The researchers used the sera collected from 28 people who had participated in the Covaxin phase-2 trial. They also collected sera samples from 17 people who were infected with older strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus and had recovered.  

“The study found that the neutralising capacity against the double mutant (B.1.617) variant was found to be good in both groups — people who have received the vaccine and those who have recovered from COVID-19,” says Dr. Samiran Panda, a senior scientist at ICMR and one of the co-authors of the preprint. “Compared with people who have recovered from COVID-19, the ability of the sera of vaccinated people to neutralise the B.1.617 variant was found to be two-fold less.”

An earlier study had found that Covaxin neutralises the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the UK.

“The assurance of neutralisation of B.1.617 variant with sera of Covaxin vaccinees and recovered COVID-19 sera will provide the much-needed boost to the COVID-19 vaccination programme in India,” the authors write.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call on April 27, Dr. Antony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said: “Despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very important antidote against this [variant].”

The B.1.617 variant has two mutations — E484Q and L425R — of concern. These mutations are found in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein. Though how the two mutations behave individually is well known, the combined effect of these mutations when present together is not known.  “Further studies are needed to understand the transmissibility and infectivity of the B.1.617 variant,” the authors write.

Published in The Hindu on April 28, 2021  

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