S.Africans urged not to be complacent after discovery about 2nd variant

A genomics team lead by the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) found people who've been infected with this variant have a certain level of protection against reinfection.

This undated handout picture courtesy of the British Health Protection Agency shows the coronavirus seen under an electron microscope. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Scientists have stressed that a recent discovery regarding the new coronavirus variant first studied in South Africa should not make people complacent.

A genomics team lead by the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) found people who've been infected with this variant have a certain level of protection against reinfection.

The team, in collaboration with the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, found the coronavirus variant gives people protection to some extent from current as well as previous circulating variants.

Head of the medical microbiology department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal professor Koleka Mlisana said more research was being conducted: “This is limited information. We still don’t have information on other variants in other countries.”

READ MORE: Those who get 501Y.V2 variant protected from other variants - SA scientists

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases' professor Penny Moore said people should still adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions geared at keeping the coronavirus at bay.

“We strongly encouraged people to still use protection as people who have not been infected.”

WATCH: People infected with 501Y.V2 variant are protected from past and current variants

Scientists say it was still unclear how long antibodies last in people who've become infected, as well as how many antibodies were needed to protect people from reinfection.

FUTURE VACCINES

Future vaccine development stands to benefit from the discovery that the second coronavirus variant provides some level of immunity.

Chairperson of government's Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Professor Salim Adbool Karim, said there was a good prospect of success for future vaccines, if they were manufactured based on the 501Y.V2 variant.

“If a vaccine is built on this new variant strain capabilities, we refer to it epitomes. If we make the next version the vaccine based on that, we can expect that there’s a good chance that vaccine will elicit good immune responses.”

Karim said such a vaccine had already been produced by pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, Moderna.

“It’s already going into human studies and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZaneca are doing similarly. They are all using 501Y.V2 as a variant that they want to try and target.”

On other variants possibly emerging, the Africa Health Research Institute's Professor Alex Sigal said another scientist involved in the research, Sandile Cele, was trying to predict what the virus' next move will be.

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