Double-mutant variant enhances host-cell entry

Double-mutant variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome SARSCoV-2 — B.1.617 — that has emerged in India, entered certain types of lung and intestine cells with slightly increased efficiency compared with the original wild-type strain, say researchers.

The researchers, including Markus Hoffmann from German Primate Centre, also reported that the entry of B.1.617 into the lung and intestinal cells was blocked following treatment with soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or the serine protease inhibitor Camostat.

However, this host cell entry was not blocked by monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab, which has received emergency use authorisation.

Finally, B.1.617 also partially evaded neutralisation by the antibodies induced through natural infection or immunisation with the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine, a study suggested.

The researcher said that antibody evasion by B.1.617 may contribute to the rapid spread of this variant. The sharp rise in COVID cases and deaths in India recently may be caused by the novel variant B.1.617, which harbours eight mutations in the spike protein.

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