While the world reached the sad number of 2 million dead and more than 93 million infected for the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged a year ago in the Chinese city of Wuhan, hopes are today on the vaccines that were developed in record time to end the disease. But, ¿will we really end this threat?
For the CEO of Moderna, no. Stephane Bancel, executive director of the US laboratory that developed a successful vaccine against COVID-19 admitted that the coronavirus is here to stay and that it will become an endemic disease “The coronavirus, which has paralyzed world economies and collapsed hospitals, will be with us forever. “SARS-CoV-2 will not go away and we will live with this virus, we believe, forever.”He stated without hesitation yesterday during a panel discussion at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.
And in relation to appearance of the recent new mutations of the coronavirus that has experts around the world on alert, He added: “Health officials will have to continually monitor new variants of the virus, so that scientists can produce vaccines to combat them”. These new variants of the virus can lead to a more complex behavior of the pathogen, such as enhancing its contagion, being more deadly or becoming more resistant to vaccines or treatments against the COVID-19 disease.
While the eyes of the world are focused on new strain of SARS-CoV-2 found in the United Kingdom and that triggered the wave of infections in Europe, Scientists are especially concerned about a mutation present in other versions of the virus, such as those detected in South Africa and Brazil, potentially capable of rendering current vaccines less effective.
The so-called E484K is the “most worrisome mutation of all” regarding its impact on the immune response, according to Ravi Gupta, professor of microbiology at the University of Cambridge. Variants are different versions of the initial coronavirus that appear over time, as the virus mutates, which happens when it replicates and which is normal in this type of acellular infectious agents.
Until now, multiple SARS-CoV-2 mutations have been observed, most without consequence. But others can improve your survival, for example, by making you more contagious. Variants that emerged in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Japan –the latter with the arrival of a family from the South American giant – they have in common a mutation called N501Y, which would explain their greater transmissibility. This is located in the “spike” protein of the coronavirus, a prominence that allows it to penetrate cells.
But for the E484K mutation, other types of suspicion weigh. Laboratory tests showed that, with this, the organism seems to recognize the virus less, thus reducing its neutralization by antibodies. The Pfizer researchers said their BioNTech-developed vaccine appeared to be effective against a key mutation in the UK strain, as well as a variant found in South Africa.
Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for use in Americans 18 and older. Additional studies still need to be completed in children, whose immune systems may respond differently to vaccines than those of adults.
Bancel said that he hopes the United States will be one of the first large countries to achieve “sufficient protection” against the virus.