Scientists have discovered that people infected by the new Covid19 variant have developed antibodies that can offer protection from other variants.
Scientists have discovered that people infected by the new Covid19 variant have developed antibodies that can offer protection from other variants.

Research shows people with new Covid-19 variant develop antibodies that offer protection

By Chulumanco Mahamba Time of article published Mar 4, 2021

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Johannesburg - Scientists have discovered that people infected by the new Covid19 variant have developed antibodies that can offer protection from other variants.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande and Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize jointly provided an update on the latest scientific results on the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, dubbed 501Y. V2.

The new variant was first discovered in South Africa by scientists based at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Informatics and Sequencing Programme (KRISP) last year, supported by the Department of Science and Innovation.

Nzimande announced that the research by KRISP, working together with the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) and the National

Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) came out with findings which demonstrated that people infected by Covid-19 during the second wave – dominated by the new variant – have protection from current and previous variants.

“The 501Y.V2 variant is able to generate immune-responses, we have found out from our scientists, that neutralise itself and other SARS-CoV-2 lineages,” the minister said.

KRISP director Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the scientist who discovered the new variant, said that it was clear that the 501Y.V2 variant was first discovered in South Africa, however scientists are still unsure of where the variant originated.

“We know it was identified in South Africa through this network and spread very fast, but now it has been found in 48 countries in the world… It doesn’t make sense to call it the South African variant, because there are close to 50 countries where this variant is circulating,” De Oliveira said.

He added that scientists were concerned about the circulation of the variant in the southern African region, where some neighboring countries have fragile health systems and a large number of deaths as a result of the variant.

Dr Alex Sigal from AHRI said research had found that the new variant could neutralise itself.

He added that the scientists used blood plasma, the liquid portion of blood, from people infected during the second wave with the new variant, against the variants of the first wave virus. “We found it could neutralise, not as well as it can neutralise itself, but it’s not bad at all,” he said.

Professor Penny Moore of Wits University said that the neutralising antibodies elicited by the new variant were somehow different in their ability to recognise not only their own virus, but other viruses too.

She added that scientists had known for some time that infected people develop good antibody responses, however it was not known for how long the antibodies would be effective, or how many antibodies were enough to protect from re-infection.

The Star

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