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Structural changes in early covid variants alert

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Even when India is working on the newly discovered covid-19 strain DeltaPlus, new studies have shown that two older variants (Alpha and Beta (South Africa), first discovered in the UK) are moving with structural changes in India. It became clear that it was circulating in India.

A peer-reviewed study published in Science also suggests that current vaccines may be less effective against beta versions, but boosters may work. This study comes as a confirmation of the fear that existing covid vaccines may not be able to prevent new mutants that spread rapidly.

The latest in a series of structural studies of variant peplomer proteins, led by Bing Chen of the US Boston Children’s Hospital, has revealed new properties for alpha and beta mutants. Chen’s team also plans to report the structure of other variants of concern, including the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), in the near future.

The results of these ongoing studies will be of interest to Indian researchers who are also struggling with the latest variant, DeltaPlus.

Peplomers found on the surface of viruses allow the virus to attach to and invade human cells, and all current vaccines are directed against them. A new study, published June 24, used cryo-electron microscopy to compare the original viral peplomers with alpha and beta peaplomers.

Research shows that mutations in beta variants change the shape of the spike surface at specific locations in the body. As a result, neutralizing antibodies elicited by current vaccines are unable to bind betavirus, which may allow people to evade the immune system even when vaccinated.

“The mutation reduces the effectiveness of the antibody stimulated by the current vaccine. Beta variants are somewhat resistant to the current vaccine, and boosters with new sequences are beneficial in protecting against this variant. We think that is, “Chen said.

However, the study also found that mutations in beta mutants reduced the effectiveness of spikes in binding to ACE2. This suggests that this mutant is less contagious than alpha.

For alpha mutants, this study confirms that genetic alterations in spikes promote viral binding to the ACE2 receptor and increase infectivity. However, tests have shown that antibodies built with existing vaccines can neutralize this mutant.

The researchers said the variants needed to do three things to increase the threat. It spreads more easily, avoids the immune system of vaccinated people and those who have been previously exposed to covid-19, and causes more serious illness.

Fortunately, the alpha and beta versions do not meet all of these criteria, the authors said.

“Our data suggest that the most problematic combination of such mutations does not yet exist in the existing mutants examined here,” the researchers said.

The “variant of concern” detected in India are alpha (3,969), beta (149) and gamma (1), which were first detected in Japan among travelers from Brazil. Together, another variant called Delta and Kappa was first detected in Maharashtra. , India accounts for 16,238 cases.

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