The scientists’ war on COVID-19 continues: vaccine vs. mutations.
Though it sounds like a Netflix thriller, it’s very real and this week finds the star of the narrative to be Pfizer.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa, according to a Pfizer lab study conducted with scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Most of the current vaccines battling the pandemic train the body to recognize that spike protein and fight it. Pfizer teamed with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for laboratory tests to see if the mutation affected its vaccine’s ability to do so.
Blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine were used and antibodies from those vaccine recipients were shown to have defeated the virus in lab dishes, according to the study posted late Thursday on an online site for researchers.
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed but indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing the virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
Pfizer chief scientific officer Dr. Philip Dormitzer said it was encouraging that the vaccine appears effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations the company has previously tested against.
“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” he said in a Reuters story. “That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”
And, of course, with any good thriller, the good guys always have more enemies to fight.
Dormitzer said another mutation found in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation, was also concerning.
The global population will take good news where it can find it.