by Oleg Burunov
On Monday, Public Health England said that scientists have discovered a mutation of the UK coronavirus strain that they suggested may make COVID-19 more resistant to vaccines.
Julian Tang, a professor and clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, has warned that Britain risks being turned into a “melting pot” for new mutations of the UK coronavirus strain.
He said in remarks at the UK’s Science Media Centre that Public Health England’s recent announcement about the discovery of a new mutation of the strain is a “worrying development”.
The “reassurances from recent studies showing that the [Moderna] mRNA vaccines will still offer optimum protection against the original UK variant may no longer apply”, the virologist argued.
The remarks came after British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the government and pharmaceutical companies are conducting discussions on whether tweaks to vaccines are needed to make them more effective against the new mutation of the strain.
“We’re working with pharmaceutical companies and with the scientists to understand both whether the such modifications are needed, where they are needed, and how they can be brought to use on the front line as quickly and safely as possible. This is obviously a very important consideration given the new variants that we’ve seen”, Hancock stressed.
He spoke as Public Health England (PHE) said they are monitoring the situation “closely” and that “all necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, including enhanced contact tracing and control measures”.
This followed PHE on Monday stating that the E484K mutation has been detected in at least 11 samples of the UK’s B.1.1.7 strain, earlier described as something that is up to 70 percent more contagious than the pre-existing variant.
E484K, which is currently in place in the variants that arose in South Africa and Brazil, is believed to help the coronavirus resist vaccines and antibody therapies as well as infect those who have already fought off COVID-19.
The discovery of the new mutation comes as the UK, which is now in the grip of a national coronavirus lockdown, on Monday reported the lowest number of new daily cases since December.