UK variant found more deadly in study


A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus outside a regional science centre amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Oldham, Britain on August 3, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The number of coronavirus cases in the US caused by the UK variant is rising, and researchers said Wednesday that the UK variant is between 30 percent and 100 percent more deadly than other variants as drugmakers seek all-in-one COVID-19 vaccines to target it and other variants.

The B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom already had been identified as being significantly quicker and easier to spread, and now a study in the British Medical Journal published Wednesday said researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol have found the variant has a significantly higher mortality rate among adults compared with previously circulating strains.

The universities said in a statement that the UK strain was between 30 percent and 100 percent more deadly than other variants.

The B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in Britain in September 2020 and has since also been found in more than 100 other countries. It has 23 mutations in its genetic code — a relatively high number — and some of them have made it far more easily spread. Scientists say it is about 40-70 percent more transmissible than previous dominant variants that were circulating.

The UK study showed that the new variant led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 patients compared with 141 among the same number of closely matched patients who had the previous strains.

"In the community, death from COVID-19 is still a rare event, but the B.1.1.7 variant raises the risk," Robert Challen, lead author of the study from the University of Exeter, said in a statement. "Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly, this makes B.1.1.7 a threat that should be taken seriously."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 3,283 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in the US. Only Oklahoma, Vermont and South Dakota report no cases.

"SARS-CoV-2 appears able to mutate quickly, and there is a real concern that other variants will arise with resistance to rapidly rolled out vaccines," Ellen Brooks-Pollock, one of the authors of the research, said in the statement. "Monitoring for new variants as they arise, measuring their characteristics and acting appropriately needs to be a key part of the public health response in the future."

Even though there isn't evidence indicating that vaccines currently available don't protect against variants, a new lab study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday shows that Pfizer's and Moderna's shots were far less effective against the variant B.1.351 first identified in South Africa.

CDC data shows that as of Tuesday there are 91 cases of the B.1.351 variant in 21 US states.

The study found that the percentage of protective antibodies that neutralized the South Africa variant was 12.4 times less effective for Moderna's COVID-19 shot than against the original coronavirus, and 10.3 times less for Pfizer's.

"If the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, then we may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for influenza virus. Such considerations require that we stop virus transmission as quickly as is feasible, by redoubling our mitigation measures and by expediting vaccine rollout," the authors wrote in the research paper.

Pharmaceutical companies are exploring ways to strengthen the current vaccine protection by adding doses to the exiting shots, updating the shots or crafting a booster. A multivalent shot is another approach in the works.

Several vaccine makers have said their vaccines are effective against the coronavirus variants. But to be safe, researchers at Moderna, Novavax and the University of Oxford are pursuing new shots, known as multivalent COVID-19 vaccines, as research suggested emerging variants could partly escape protection from the vaccines currently in use.

A multivalent vaccine is designed to immunize against two or more strains of the same virus. Developing multivalent vaccines is to protect not only against the coronavirus variants that have been identified so far, but also potentially contagious strains that might emerge in the future.

"If there are two or three predominant worldwide strains, and infection or immunity to one doesn't protect against the others, then we may need multivalent vaccines," Buddy Creech, director of Vanderbilt University's vaccine research program, told The Wall Street Journal.

Multivalent vaccines are widely used against other viruses, such as measles, mumps and rubella. Some pneumonia vaccines target as many as 23 strains, while multivalent flu vaccines targeting three or four different influenza strains have protected against multiple variants circling the globe.

2020年8月3日,英国奥尔德姆,一名戴着防护面罩的男子在冠状病毒疾病(新冠肺炎)爆发期间,走过一个地区科学中心外的病毒插图。[图片/机构]在美国,由英国变异体引起的冠状病毒病例数量正在上升,研究人员周三表示,英国变异体比其他变异体的致命性高30%至100%,因为制药商寻求针对英国变异体和其他变异体的一体化新冠肺炎疫苗。在英国首次发现的B.1.1.7变异体已经被确定为传播速度更快、更容易,现在发表在周三出版的《英国医学杂志》上的一项研究称,埃克塞特大学和布里斯托尔大学的研究人员发现,与以前传播的菌株相比,这种变异体在成人中的死亡率明显更高。大学在一份声明中说,英国菌株比其他变种的致命性高30%至100%。B.1.1.7变异体于2020年9月首次在英国发现,此后在100多个其他国家也发现了这种变异体。它的遗传密码中有23个突变——这是一个相对较高的数字——其中一些突变使得它更容易传播。科学家说,它比以前流行的显性变异多传播40-70%。英国的研究表明,在54,906名患者的样本中,新的变体导致了227人死亡,而在同样数量的密切匹配的患者中,有141人患有以前的菌株。埃克塞特大学这项研究的主要作者罗伯特·查尔林在一份声明中说:“在社区中,死于新冠肺炎仍然是一个罕见的事件,但是B.1.1.7变异体增加了风险。”。“加上其快速传播的能力,这使得B.1.1.7成为一个应该认真对待的威胁。”根据疾病控制和预防中心(CDC)的数据,美国有3283例B.1.1.7变体。只有俄克拉荷马州、佛蒙特州和南达科他州没有报告病例。该研究的作者之一艾伦·布鲁克斯-波洛克(Ellen Brooks-Pollock)在声明中说:“SARS-CoV-2似乎能够迅速变异,人们真的担心其他变异会对快速推出的疫苗产生耐药性。”“随着新变种的出现,对它们进行监测,测量它们的特征并采取适当的行动,需要成为未来公共卫生应对措施的一个关键部分。”尽管没有证据表明目前可用的疫苗不能抵抗变异体,但周三发表在《自然》杂志上的一项新的实验室研究表明,辉瑞和莫德纳的疫苗对最初在南非发现的变异体B.1.351的效果要差得多。疾控中心的数据显示,截至周二,美国21个州有91例1.351变异体。研究发现,中和南非变体的保护性抗体在莫德纳新冠肺炎疫苗中的效力是对抗原始冠状病毒的12.4倍,在辉瑞公司的疫苗中则是10.3倍。“如果病毒的猖獗传播继续下去,更多的关键突变积累起来,那么我们可能会被迫继续追赶不断演变的SARS-CoV-2,就像我们长期以来对流感病毒所做的那样。作者在研究论文中写道:“这些考虑要求我们尽可能快地停止病毒传播,通过加倍我们的缓解措施和加快疫苗的推出。”制药公司正在探索通过在现有疫苗中增加剂量、更新疫苗或制造助推器来加强当前疫苗保护的方法。多角度拍摄是另一种正在进行的方法。一些疫苗制造商表示,他们的疫苗对冠状病毒变体有效。但为了安全起见,莫德纳、诺瓦瓦克斯和牛津大学的研究人员正在寻求新的疫苗,称为多价新冠肺炎疫苗,因为研究表明,新出现的变异体可能会部分逃脱目前使用的疫苗的保护。多价疫苗被设计用来免疫两种或两种以上的同一种病毒。开发多价疫苗不仅是为了防止迄今为止已经发现的冠状病毒变异,也是为了防止未来可能出现的潜在传染性菌株。范德比尔特大学疫苗研究项目主任巴迪·克里奇(Buddy Creech)告诉《华尔街日报》,“如果有两三种主要的全球菌株,而对其中一种的感染或免疫不能抵御其他菌株,那么我们可能需要多价疫苗。”多价疫苗被广泛用于对抗其他病毒,如麻疹、腮腺炎和风疹。一些肺炎疫苗针对多达23种病毒株,而针对三种或四种不同流感病毒株的多价流感疫苗可以防止全球范围内的多种变异。

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