People infected with new variant may be protected from re-infection

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Scientists in South Africa have found that people infected by the new Covid-19 501Y.V2 variant developed antibodies and may be protected from possible re-infection.

They, however, have warned that this does not mean non-pharmaceuticals protocols should not be adhered to by those who tested positive for the virus because the results were still tested.

The scientists, including professor Tulio de Oliveria of Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRSIP), Koleka Mlisana, executive manager at the NHLS and Penny Moore from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases- presented that the new variant gives immune responses that protects people from getting other variants of virus.

These findings were announced during a joint media briefing this week held by SA’s minister of higher education, science and innovation minister Blade Nzimande and minister of health Zweli Mkhize.

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The scientists found that plasma collected from people who were infected with the new variant had a good neutralizing activity, also against ‘first wave’ viruses and potential other variants.

They, amongst other factors, detected that a new variant with multiple spike mutations affected some vaccine responses and that people infected with the virus had immunity against the variant and other potential lineages.

The scientists presented that the findings were important for the design of a vaccine and suggested that vaccines that were modified to contain the variant spike were likely to protect against multiple variants.

They also announced that vaccine developers were testing the second generation antibodies.

Scientist Professor Penny Moore said, despite the findings, it was important that people who were infected with the 501Y.V2 variant, continued adhering to the prescribed non-pharmaceutical interventions.

“We have known for a long time that people who are infected develop good antibody responses, but there are many questions we do not know. We do not know how long those antibodies do last in people who have become infected.

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“And we do not know how much antibody is enough to protect you from re-infection. So, while we assume what people who have become infected with the new variant are protected to some extent from re-infection, we do not know how long that protection will last,” Professor Moore said.

The scientists said the results should be received as good news as the country continues to face the Covid-19 challenge. Oliveira said the new variant has many more mutations, even where they are not wanted.

“So the 501Y.V2 has around nine mutations, with these three ones being very important: the 417, 484 and 501 because the 501 has been associated with high transmission and 484 with decreased neutralization of antibodies,” Oliveira said.

Oliveira said Dr Alex Signal, in his research, noticed that in the 501Y.V2 variant, as more plasma was added from previous infection resulted in neutralization.

Presenting the results, Signal said they found the new variant could neutralize itself.

“So if you have higher concentration of your blood, therefore, antibodies, you will have no virus because its being blocked by these antibodies as you go to lower concentration you get more and more virus,” he said. – News24