Researchers in Oregon have spotted a home-made version of the rapidly spreading coronavirus that first appeared in Britain but is now being combined with a mutation that could make it a less susceptible vaccine.
Researchers have so far found only one case of this tremendous combination, but genetic analysis suggests that the variant was acquired in the community and did not occur in the patient.
“We have not imported it from other parts of the world. It happened spontaneously, “said Brian O’Ruak, a geneticist at the University of Oregon Health Sciences who led the work. He and his colleagues are involved in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts to track down options, and they have stored their results in databases shared by scientists.
Originally found in the UK, the B.1.1.7 version is spreading rapidly in the United States, with at least 2,500 cases reported in 46 states. This virus virus is “more contagious,” more deadly than the original version, and is expected to present most of the infections in the United States within a few weeks.
The new version, which appeared in Oregon, has the same backbone, but և has a mutation – E484K or “Eek”, which is found in versions of the virus circulating in South Africa, Brazil and New York.
Laboratory studies և Clinical trials in South Africa show that the Eek mutation makes current vaccines less effective by suppressing the body’s immune response. (Vaccines are still working, but the results are worrying enough that Pfizer-BioNTech և Moderna have begun testing new versions of their vaccines designed to overcome the version found in South Africa.)
Eek-related version B.1.1.7 has also appeared in the UK, which has been described by scientists as an “option of concern”. But the virus found in Oregon seems to have evolved on its own, O’Roak said.
O’Roak և and his colleagues found a variety of variants in coronavirus samples collected by the Oregon Public Health Laboratory, including some outbreaks in a health facility. Of the 13 test results they analyzed, 10 were found to be only B.1.1.7 and one was a combination.
Other experts say the discovery is not surprising, since the Eek mutation was caused by virus viruses around the world. But the case of entry in B.1.1.7 is worth watching, they say.
In the UK, this version takes into account a small number of cases. But before that combination developed there, B.1.1.7 had already spread across the country.
“We are at a point where B.1.1.7 is just being introduced to the United States,” said Stacia Wyman, a computational genomics expert at the University of California, Berkeley. “Once it develops, when it slowly becomes dominant, it can accumulate more mutations.”
Viral mutations can strengthen or weaken each other. For example, versions found in South Africa և Brazil contain many of the same mutations, including Eek. But the Brazilian version has a mutation, K417N, which is not in the South African version.
In a study published in Nature on Thursday, researchers compared antibody responses to all three variants of concern found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil. In other studies, they found that the shocking version of South Africa was more resistant to antibodies produced by the immune system.
But the version circulating in Brazil was not very durable, even though it contained an Eek mutation. “If you have a second mutation, you do not see a bad effect,” said Michael Diamond, a viral immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study.
It is too early to say whether the Oregon version will behave like the South African or Brazilian versions. But the idea that other mutations could weaken Eck’s influence is “great news,” Wyman said.
Overall, he said, the Oregon find reinforces the need for people to continue to take precautions, including wearing a mask, until a significant portion of the population is immunized.
“People should not be confused, but continue to be vigilant,” he said. “We can not disappoint as long as these more transferable versions are available.”